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As a start-up, you and your management team are able to find your first customers by networking with your contacts in your target markets. After signing your initial references, you build your sales team to find new deals and to manage relationships with existing accounts. You soon face the dilemma of generating growth while managing time and costs. This problem is particularly challenging when expanding to international markets.
A specialized Sales Agency offers a practical solution to this issue, allowing you to operate at lower costs, faster time to market and reduced risks versus hiring direct. In addition, an agency’s representatives are immediately available and known entities. They are trained and selling in 1-3 months versus typically 6-12 months when hiring direct, generating revenue in 3-6 months from start, with no additional costs or legal overhead.
A good agency should also be able to offer you a full spectrum of sales services in all your target markets. Successful sales are the result of different complementary sales methods including local sales representation supported by push and pull marketing programs that boost sales efficiency.
The core of your market presence is an in-country Sales Representative with a deep experience of local business and of its practices and traditions. Becoming part of your own organisation (concept of ‘in-sourcing’), such a rep executes the strategies and tactics you define, represents your company to its best advantage and resolves local problems efficiently.
Senior in-country sales representatives have a solid experience and contacts in channel sales or direct sales in all major markets in across the world. A good agency should also offer sales management services and a range of sales and marketing support services.
Yet, in many cases, a representative can be more effective with the help of complementary push-pull marketing programs that create or stimulate demand generation and lead generation:
- Digital Marketing pulls potential customers towards your website, making them aware first of your existence, then of your offering and its benefits. Methods include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), targeted digital advertising and professional presence on social networks such as LinkedIN, Facebook, Google+, etc. The execution of such programs in local language is critical to establish notoriety in international markets.
- TeleMarketing and eMail Marketing generate qualified leads by proactively identifying sales opportunities, by creating and nurturing professional contacts until prospects are ready for a proposal, and by realizing additional revenue opportunity from existing accounts. Telemarketing can also be used for appointment setting if your product is a complex system requiring your direct involvement in the sales process.
In short, the combination of effective methods from a full spectrum of sales services allows you to eliminate most of the risks and costs associated with international expansion, to immediately start business development, and to create a strong basis for future expansion.
Basic principles for selecting the best countries for international market expansion
When -as a small/medium business- you start reaching saturation in your local market, it is time to plan expanding abroad to generate further growth. The alternative -further investing in R&D to expand your product into new applications- soon faces barriers of saturation, competition and complexity and it can therefore prove more costly.
Going into international markets is not as difficult as it seems at first glance if you plan sensibly your entry into foreign countries and invest only when you have tested your chances of success. The three main questions you need to answer are:
1. When to ‘go international’?
2. Where to go?
3. How to go?
You are ready for international once you have achieved initial success in your home market and have a proven offering with a solid differentiation; ‘happy’ clients as references; established operational processes; and tested effective sales and marketing tools.
You also need commitment from your management and investors; buy-in, communication and participation at all levels; clear objectives for international team; international investment budget per department; clear roles & responsibilities for the home team.
Finally, your offer needs to be properly productized, packaged, priced and localized for the target markets.
Determining the ‘right’ foreign countries depends on many factors including the size of the potential market; the strength of the local competition; the distance from your home location (time zones matter); and cultural considerations such as language, business customs and openness to foreign suppliers.
Neighboring countries can be a reasonable first step but you could by hampered by regional rivalries, historical bones of contention and, merely, the lack of potential growth.
Large countries such as -in Europe- Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain represent a priori a large potential but you could face intense competition and high entry costs (e.g. translation of all documents into local language).
Smaller countries such as -in Europe- Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria are usually more open to international trade (by necessity) and relatively easier to penetrate. Many of them are comfortable with English and require significantly lower entry investments.
Ultimately, since your business (and, hopefully, your offering) is different from all the others, the best way to select the right markets is to test different countries for a period of three to six month, refine your ‘pitch’ and invest in the ones with the best practical potential.
When in fact international business development requires a local presence, you don’t necessarily have to establish a local subsidiary with all the costs and risks that such a major commitment represents.
Instead of hiring permanent local employees, you can outsource sales to well qualified representatives, starting quickly on a small basis and grow. Specialized sales outsourcing companies such as Sales Force Europe can offer you representatives with suitable experience in all major countries.
If you offer complex products or services, you also need, in addition to sales representatives, local partner organizations able to perform technical tasks including installation, maintenance, support and other specialized jobs. In the high-tech sector, such organizations are local System Integrators, Service Providers, Distributors, Value-Added Resellers or similar companies. More on this in our previous article: http://salesforceeurope.com/outsourcing-sales-to-international-partners/
The rewards of sales outsourcing and partnering with local organizations are the creation of a productive long-term relationship and the development of solid international foundations.