How to approach tech sales in the U.K. in 2023

Are you looking to expand your tech company to Europe? Or to head due west from another European country? Then London makes for a compelling launchpad. It’s an hour closer, both in timezone and flights. They speak English. And the U.K., culturally, has one foot in Europe and one in the U.S. London remains the leading tech investment center in Europe, lending it continuous credibility in the region.

It’s not for every vertical, all the time, but post-Brexit London is still vibing with an eager tech buyers’ market. So if you’re looking for solid footing for your European expansion, then the U.K. is a great next stop.

But how do you go about it? (Besides with lots of tea, of course.) We talked to our CRO Gavin Page – who has been leading tech expansions in the U.K. for over 30 years – in order to offer you a snapshot in time of the state of tech sales in the U.K. and how to better approach Blighty. Take a look and then ask yourself, are you ready to take your tech sales to the U.K. this year?

Why tech business continues to thrive in the U.K. 

It’s all in the numbers, mate! To tout a few:

  1. UK is largest tech sector in Europe, third behind U.S. and China (UKgov)
  2. In 2022, U.K. ranked second globally for startup investment (techUK)
  3. The U.K. has more open source contributors per capita than any other country — 2.8 million GitHub accounts or 5% of the population (GitHub)
  4. The March 2023 U.K. budget shows a deep commitment that science and technology are at the heart of economic growth (techUK)

Beyond statistics, Sales Force Europe has been helping tech companies expand across Europe for 20 years now, and the U.K. has consistently been one of our most receptive markets. Brexit or not, U.K. businesses continue to be open to adopting new technology — especially after it has proven use cases. 

So, while Britain isn’t the first stop for all companies and all verticals, you’d be remiss not factoring it into your European expansion plan.

Nail your USP first

Software companies really need to understand their true USP (unique selling point) Gavin argues. “What is it that you bring to the market? What is it that you bring to your customers?” 

Yes, this is selling 101, but don’t forget about the cost of change, particularly in the U.K. market. “We're not a greenfield site for a lot of tech and software solutions. People have already got solutions in place. Maybe the solution you're bringing to market improves the current situation, or replaces what they've got, or consolidates a number of solutions that are there, or replaces and enhances. Whatever that is, there's still a cost of change.” 

Over the next year, Gavin sees that cost of change being a bigger decision-making factor. 

“Be clear on that unique selling point, and that return on investment, and make sure that those things are very, very obvious to your customer.” He continued that this “is critical in ensuring that you don't have your sales cycle derailed at the last minute, because somebody's removed budget. Otherwise, if you've justified it, if it meets requirements, and it demonstrates a clear payback, why wouldn't a company do it?”

As the tech layoffs continue, causing a sense of uncertainty, proving how you can cut costs or increase revenue are big sellers globally. Across Europe, carbon measurement continues to be in high demand. And platform engineering and anything that allows developers to be more productive will be eagerly embraced this year. The British market has always been particularly receptive to marketing tech solutions and, of course, fintech for Europe’s financial capital. 

Finally, the U.K. is having a real challenge with millions of cyber-related frauds annually. Any cybersecurity automation tool worth its salt sells very well here. 

What you need before you sell tech in the U.K.

There are certainly things you need to prepare before you are ready to sell tech in the U.K., beyond having a well-honed USP.


Following our first tip about the need to make a compelling case for your tech offering, especially in the last two years. Gavin explained that you need a multi-channel lead generation approach, with social selling with different cadences of activity to deliver different outcomes, targeting different tech stacks. On average this can take 12 or more touch points, comments, and the like before you can engage in a meaningful conversation. And even then, budgets are tighter, there are more decision makers involved and sales cycles are longer. Be patient and ask the right questions along the way!

The local partners

While the post-Brexit appetite for tech isn’t as impacted as was initially predicted, that doesn’t mean it’s simple. It’s become significantly more challenging for E.U. companies to expand into the U.K. Every step of your U.K. takeover — from lead gen to setting up a business to hiring to contracts to banking — is more complicated than it was a few years ago. When reaching a new country, it is hard to achieve in isolation. Outsourcing part of your expansion with trusted partners is one way to move faster, with less risk.

Scout out the competition

London is the common stepping stone for both U.S. scale-ups entering Europe and Europeans entering the U.S.. If you land in the U.K. early, then that’s great, but if you arrive late, it can be challenging to get your foothold. Before expanding to any new market or vertical, you need to understand who is already there. Rely on local partners — and your own online research and customer intel — to know who is there already, so you don’t risk entering an over-saturated market. And even if there are existing competitors, you need to know how you compare and how you differentiate your tech offering.

An understanding of GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the toughest privacy and security law in the world. Brexit or not, the U.K. was one of the drivers of the E.U. data protection regulation, so while the UK GDPR came into effect in 2021, the regulations remain very similar and the U.K. is still committed to it. You  comply or you risk hefty fines and reputation harm.

At the least, you need a cookies pop-up in English — even better if your privacy policy is localized too.

Any potential internationalization partners you may work with should have a local understanding of both GDPR and UK GDPR compliance. A quick trick? Make sure they have cookies pop-ups when on incognito mode and see if their newsletters have an Unsubscribe button at the bottom. Once that box is ticked, ask how else they remain compliant — any lead generation outsourcing company worth their salt will be able to directly answer you.

What you don’t need before going to the U.K.

If you’re savvy, there are several hurdles that you can put off crossing when first entering the U.K. market. 

  • A U.K. business entity (at least at first) - while applying for incorporation only talks about 48 hours, it takes an average of 18 business days to get set up, mostly with the HMRC tax set-up. And then it takes longer to get a U.K. bank account.
  • A physical office (at least at first) - rent prices in London especially are notoriously expensive, but, with inflation, is expected to go up another 38% this year.
  • Pay U.K. taxes (at least at first) - of course our outsourced reps that work with you pay taxes, but that’s included in the service. An entity that sets up in the U.K. will see that the tax obligation takes, on average, 110 hours a year. Plus you need to file your taxes as well as be audited by an independent U.K.-based accountant.

This doesn’t mean you can avoid these steps forever. Hopefully you’ll be so successful your first year or two in the U.K. and that’ll warrant setting up a proper long-term business there. But, for now, you don’t want to make the time, logistical and tax commitment without proving the market there.

U.K. talent gaps

Hiring and retaining talent in the U.K. continues to be a challenge that’s been exacerbated by Brexit. Robert Half Talent Solutions highlighted this in a recent report on U.K. talent:

  • 72% of organizations in the U.K. have a tech talent shortage
  • 38% of investment capital is spent on recruitment or upskilling 
  • 42% of organizations with offices in the U.K. committed their venture capital and private equity funding to recruitment and hiring

Who you hire is super important, and recruitment is well-worth time and investment. But it’s also very time-consuming. And, when you’re moving to new European markets, it comes laden with risks met with stringent employee contracts. When heading abroad, you need to prioritize your short-term versus long-term investments and if their benefits outweigh those risks.

Something to note is that the U.K. tech talent gap persists not just in technical roles, but non-technical roles as well, with 36.8% of open roles are in non-technical positions, of which a large part is sales. In fact, sales and marketing are the fourth most in-demand role in the U.K. While technical positions are the top of the in-demand list, they are easier to hire globally and work with remotely. For sales especially, you really want someone on the ground with the market experience and a local network.

When outsourcing should be a part of your British expansion

You have to consider these general uncertainties that come with testing out a new market, as well as those particular to the U.K. in 2023, before launching your tech company there. Outsourcing is a great opportunity to reduce several of these challenges while increasing speed to new markets. 

Sales is almost always your first hire in a new country, well before you’ve had a chance to test out your market. While London is a great place to live, transplanting your top country sales rep there may not be ideal. After all, they won’t have the network and cultural perspective that allowed them to thrive back home. By partnering with a U.K.-based sales outsourcing service like Sales Force Europe, you gain access to full-time and part-time sales reps with at least a decade selling tech in Britain. Most importantly, you gain access to their tech buyer network, cutting the time from hiring to training to talking to clients down from about six months to just four weeks.

If you’re selling a physical product, shipping is another post-Brexit concern, not to mention returns. Add to this, post-Brexit, the Visa cross-country card fee has increased from 0.3% to 1.5% and the Mastercard from 0.2% to 1.15%, so you really need a U.K. base as well as an E.U. one to not feel this increase. We recommend taking advantage of local U.K. IT redistribution and channel sales partners. You benefit from partnering with in-country representatives with long-standing relationships with both at local brick-and-mortars and online retailers to get onto shelves and stocked, with a visible presence. 

Of course that’s just the top of the trifle for how to expand your tech sales to the U.K. in 2023. Want to know more? Connect with Gavin or our CEO Rick today!

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