Getting ready for the enterprise

A different strategy(link) is needed to chart a startup’s journey from serving SMBs to the much larger enterprise market.

Enterprise readiness cannot be achieved simply by hiring experienced consultants or partnering with consulting firms like Accenture or TCS. It may require building out a professional services(PS) function. Professional services are not needed for products which can be implemented within a week. However, PS can help implement complex solutions that need to be configured and customized according to each customer. Based on a recent meetup co-hosted by Strikedeck, the PS function ideally falls under Customer Success, not Sales. I can validate that Customer Success should own PS according to my experience.

Startups succeed in the enterprise marketplace when the Customer Success team is empowered to sell PS. Sales shouldn’t sell PS without consulting with the Customer Success/delivery teams. This is how things should work based on my experience with the world’s largest consulting firms, as well as some hot startups.

More often than not, I see startups underestimate PS by not involving their delivery teams during the sales process. The worst case scenario is when Sales puts together a statement of work (SOW) dependent on the feedback from an SMB-focused Customer Success team that has never performed technical scoping of a large-scale implementation. This results in significant underestimation.

I’ve noticed that many Customer Success teams need the help of a senior person (like me) capable of managing large customers and delivering complex solutions. Twenty-years work experience is not the answer. A better resource is an industry expert with GSD experience using the tech platform. If it’s hard to find an industry expert, you are better off with an implementation guru, not a relationship person. Sales teams sometimes ignore a junior Customer Success team if they don’t see a ‘grown-up’ in the room who’s hands-on with the technology and understands senior stakeholder management.

An enterprise-facing Customer Success team needs all the help it can get by owning ‘professional services.’ The best case scenario is ensuring that the Customer Success team can pay for itself by selling PS like a consulting firm.

Customer Success should not function as a pure cost center. Free services to enterprise customers should be limited. Enterprise customers will pay for a talented delivery team.