A trend I’ve been noticing more and more is enterprise sales being done bottoms up. The typical approach is to offer a free trials or have some sort of freemium product. Each sign up is then treated as an inbound lead that is assigned an account manager. Within two weeks of signing up for New Relic I was contacted by an account manager who helped answer my questions and helped me get New Relic set up for Glossi. Working with him, we were able to get a longer trial period and a discounted price for when we’re ready to upgrade. HubSpot found that inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads. If having a strong SEO and Social Media presence drops acquisition costs that much imagine the drop caused by having a usable product. Although we’re a small, scrappy startup that’s quick to try new products and services, I believe this approach will become the standard way of selling SAAS in the enterprise. It’s much easier to get a person to try something new and if you can turn him into a fan, you’re one step closer to getting the company signed up.
An extreme case of this would be to initially build a product that’s focused on the consumer and only building out enterprise features when there’s a clear demand for them. A great example would be Dropbox, they initially focused exclusively on making a kick-ass experience for the consumer and only after nailing that down did they release the “Dropbox for Teams” plans. I don’t recall the history of GitHub but they may have done something similar - initially focusing on public and private repositories and then growing into the more enterprise friendly plans. This is a great approach for a product driven startup since you can focus on building your product without getting stuck in the twisted path of custom client work. But when your product and team are more fleshed out, you can focus on the additional revenue opportunities created by going after the enterprise.