Elevate 2024: The State of Enterprise Sales
perspectives / Events

Elevate 2024: The State of Enterprise Sales

Takeaways from our enterprise sales panel at Salesforce Ventures’ annual CEO summit.

Nowi Kallen
May 21, 2024

I recently had the honor of hosting a panel on enterprise sales at Elevate—Salesforce Ventures’ annual CEO summit. Joining me on the panel were three seasoned pros in enterprise sales: Drata Chief Revenue Officer Adam Aarons, Morgan Stanley Managing Director Keith Weiss, and Wells Fargo’s CIO for Consumer Payments and Banking, Lipsa Goswamy.

The panel featured a ton of great advice for startups selling to enterprises. In this blog post I’ll share a few insights that jumped out to me. To watch the panel in its entirety, check out the following video:

Editorial noteQuotes have been edited for clarity.

Enterprises Are Likelier to Buy vs. Build AI Solutions

The rapid pace of innovation in the AI space provides an advantage to startups and small teams that can iterate quickly. Startups must be ready to jump on opportunities where enterprises are seeking out a specific functionality that they cannot build in-house. 

“Because the AI use cases haven’t been built out into the broader incumbent platforms, it is a good opportunity for startups to get a toe in the door, to give us a functionality that we just can’t get from one of our existing platforms.”

Keith Weiss

Companies Need Help Using AI to Improve Internal Processes

The companies that have seen the biggest benefit from generative AI thus far are the ones that have used the technology internally to improve their products. As such, another way startups can get their foot in the door is by helping risk-averse companies iterate internally on products before going to market with new solutions. 

“If there was a biggest beneficiary thus far, it’s been the companies that are able to improve their existing solutions by using generative AI, not having to reinvent the wheel, not having to create something new, not having to go through all those processes that it takes for our companies to come up with a new solution.”

Keith Weiss

Startups Must Be ‘Enterprise Ready’

Before going to market, startups must consider if their business can accommodate enterprise clients. Working with enterprises is often demanding: regulatory environments are complex to navigate and procurement cycles are long. Startups must do the work to ensure they can manage a relationship with a large organization.

“We have standards around scale, around risk, compliance, privacy, and governance … We are a big bank. We are regulated amongst top five banks, so what I think is ‘is the company going to be able to stand up to the expectations we have?’”

Lipsa Goswamy

Enterprise Sales is a Grind

Enterprise sales are lucrative, but challenging. If startups hope to succeed, they must have a dedicated enterprise sales function and strong leadership that can keep the team motivated and mission-oriented. 

“One of our themes is, ‘control what you can control, because there’s a lot of things going on that you can’t.’ But if you’re absolutely excellent on the things that are within your control, you’ll win a lot more times than you’ll lose. There’s beauty in the grind.”

Adam Aarons

Build Enterprise Credibility Through Third-Party References

Startups benefit when independent market actors, like Gartner, cite or reference their work. Peer company or personal recommendations are also invaluable for startups seeking to gain enterprise credibility.

 “I’ll be honest, if [a competitor] is using a product, we’re going to take a look at it just to see like, what are they seeing that’s interesting there? Maybe there’s something in there that should work for us?”

Keith Weiss

Don’t Give Away Your Product for Free

While enterprise validation is powerful, startups shouldn’t be so desperate as to partner with an enterprise that doesn’t care about their organization’s interests. 

“Don’t give [your product] away for the opportunity. I’ve had companies tell me, ‘hey, just to be able to use our logo, you should give us the software.’ And I’ll be like: why would you want me to do that? It’s bad for you if your suppliers aren’t making any money.”

Adam Aarons


It was a pleasure to facilitate a conversation around enterprise sales for 100+ startup founders, CEOs, and executives at Elevate. The panel covered a lot of ground, from how enterprises are investing in AI to how IT budgets are changing, and a whole lot more. I hope all of our attendees came away with actionable insights they can apply to their business.

Are you a founder building in the enterprise SaaS space? We’d love to talk! To get in touch, email me at nowi@salesforceventures.com