What are the greatest challenges working with large enterprise customers?

Mark Noronha / November, 2017


Mark Noronha, Startup Engagement Lead, SAP Startup Focus explains key challenges with selling to enterprise customers and questions they might ask.

Video Transcript

What are the greatest challenges working with large enterprise customers?

I think the right way to answer this would be kind of figure out where in the life cycle the startup really is. If it’s an early stage startup, what we’ve seen is that many startups look for enterprise customers to get involved with them when they’re looking for product market fit. Now there’s a lot of startups in this world and if everybody goes to all the enterprise customers looking for their involvement. The reality is that that’s not going to happen and that’s one of the phenomenon that begun to happen. On one hand, startups are told that it’s the right thing to get customer validation in your early days of building a product. On the other hand, there are not that many customers that are in a position to dedicate that much time to every single startup that shows up with that request. So that’s one of the big challenges that early stages startups have, how do they get customers validation in the early days of building their product.

I think what we’ve typically have seen is that people like us, who run accelerator programs, co-operate accelerators, we can help tremendously in that because we provide startups sometimes access to customers, but many times to the entire machinery that supports those customers. We’re a 40-year-old business application company, we’ve been selling business application software to some of the largest business corporations in the world. We have a deep understanding of their requirements as well. That’s one of the ways in which the early stage startups can kind of overcome that hurdle and not get stuck. When the startups are little mature and are looking for scaling its business, they’ve got the product market fit, but now they’re looking to acquire customers. That’s when there are a different aspect of the customer buying behavior starts coming to light. They’re looking for characteristics of the startup over and above the value that the product adds to them. Is the startup going to be around, is it well funded, had they taken care of basic software needs of enterprise software, how does this particular product fit in with all the investments I have made over the years, do they have partnerships with any of my existing vendors? This is the kind of things that get involved in the buying cycle.

Again, corporate accelerators do help a lot because they impart that knowledge to the startups. Especially, corporate accelerators that are in the same business. People that are in the business of selling software, can share best practices with startups that are building software. I think there are many other avenues available to startup to gather that technology, but I think these are one of the better avenues over the last few years where accelerators have become more and more mature. It’s a great place for startups to get that sort of information.

I think one of the key things, and I don’t think that this gets addressed often enough. Is the fact that startups come to partners like us, looking for access to our customers. And one of the things that they don’t seem to recognize early on is the fact that these customers are using our software. We ourselves are innovating and making our software more in-line with contemporary needs. We are also looking for partners with startups, to bring their innovation to our customers. So that aspect of being able to coexist with customers existing investments in technology, I think that’s one of the key things that startups sometimes get wrong. They might solve a customer business pinpoint but their definition of the solution doesn’t fit with the investments where the customer has already made. And getting that right, early on, can really help a startup.



  • Mark Noronha, SAP Startup Focus
  • November, 2017
  • 4:38
  • Marketing & Sales, Sales

Next Up

How is business development measured?

What is developer evangelism and why is it important?

What is the difference between business development and sales?

What are some best practices in PR?

How do you build a compelling story about your company?

Join the Startupedia Community

Connect with VCs and unlock vital startup advice!