15 international sales tips for tech startups right now (even in 2020)

How do you work on your global expansion when planes are grounded? How can a tech organization work to grow their business in a time of lockdown? Yes, these are very open-ended questions, but 2020 is quite open-ended, isn’t it?

The initial idea was to gather a lot of different tips and tricks from our network of international sales experts. What we ended up with is a hodge-podge of international sales tips and tricks you can pick and choose from, discovering what’s best-suited for your team.

Dive into these international sales tips from some of our tech sales outsourcing specialists. Who knows, you just might be inspired to bring your business to Europe sooner. Because focusing on growth — with a global mindset — is how your business will survive and even thrive right now. 

"Your company has a new challenge: being visible without face-to-face meetings or even requests to meet, while the targeted decision makers are often working from home. Time to speak personally and to treat everyone as an individual, not a role and title in an organization. For this, googling and checking beyond LinkedIn who is what makes the difference. For instance, a sports-oriented person with an introverted personality may be addressed in a way another would not understand. 'Speak to me about me, rather than about you' is the (not-so-new) rule of the game."

Yves T. de Beauregard, France Country Manager

"When I participate in discussions about international expansion, I often experience that we lack a common vocabulary. Much time is spent clearing up misunderstandings because each of us has a slightly different perception of the words we use. What is the difference between a market and an industry? Are a market and a country the same? What is the difference between a lead, a prospect and a potential customer? When is a lead or a prospect qualified? What is a value proposition? What is a position? Is there a global market? What is a business model, and what is the business model environment? How do you define the ideal customer profile? How do you define a market segment? What is the law of diffusion of innovation? Does it apply to you?"

Hans Peter Bech, Partner, author Going Global on a Shoestring

"Budgets are rapidly changing. People in positions of influence are, at best, being sidelined and, at worst, furloughed or let go. CFOs are looking at everything. Everything. In this time, deal velocity — the speed at which you are able to make a convincing argument through to acceptance and closure — is critical. Don't wait a day to send that email. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with your client, and where possible, define a mutual close plan."

Robb Miller, Sales Partner and Senior VP of Sales at RichRelevance 

"Employment contracts in France are quite stringent, so many French tech companies are terrified to hire in these uncertain times. I agree. But while the economy is on the rise, it's important to keep selling. You must take advantage of flexible outsourcing for the foreseeable future that brings the experience without the strict contracts. In particular, sales outsourcing is mobility linked to performance."

Arnaud Burel, Sales Partner in France, specialized in telecommunications and channel sales

“One common mistake many companies do is to lightly try few markets, do a deal with a telemarketing company to book meetings and fly in and out to try to close business. I haven’t yet seen this model work and there are reasons for this. Imagine yourself in the trousers of a buyer you’re going to meet. A company from abroad approaches me and proposes to meet. Never heard of this company and do not know what they do. However I’m a kind person and an early adopter, so I agree to do a short meeting. Now, if the salesperson does a good pitch and can convince that their product is something that would interest me, I still have some doubts. Where is this company coming from? Do they have a local presence to support us? Are they seriously entering our market or are they only scratching the surface? Are they planning to stay here, or sign and jump back in the cab to take the 1st flight out of the country? Of course, it depends on your product, but especially B2B products that require in-country sales reps, usually need to have local people in the team. You need to be able to convince your buyer that you are here to stay…"

Petri Rinne, Sales Partner in Finland

“Especially when you’re bootstrapping or tightening budgets in uncertain times, you should focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. As a tech company you should be focused on building a great (invest-worthy) team, serving current customers, creating a product roadmap that caters to them, and building a stable, reliable and delighting product that solves a business problem in a new way. Then outsource your sales, your marketing, your accounting, or anything else that’s not supporting these goals. This focus means you can keep the adaptability of flexible contracts and you do what you do best, while they do what they do best.”

Jennifer Riggins, CMO

“Right now even people who don’t need an excuse to delay a buying decision are nervous to commit. So it becomes even more important to have breadth in your sales pipeline. Add extra dedicated prospecting time into your week to add to your top of funnel – this will give you the confidence to qualify harder, move real deals through the stages and really determine those opportunities that could close. Score your deals to help you spend time where the rewards can be realised and nurture the others. In my experience, when the pipeline is thin, increased prospecting isn’t always the natural result – many entrepreneurs and salespeople end up holding on desperately to influence deals that could delay or just not happen instead of widening the net and finding those that can."

Gavin Page, CRO and lead generation expert

“Tech startups normally are not strong financially compared to established companies with years of operation. So they need a quick ramp-up of sales in whatever solutions, products and series they are focusing on. They should focus on niche markets, with the right connections and competitive offerings which bring business value to the buyers. In this uncertain time of slower business growth, companies should look at ways to reduce operating costs and yet maintain or increase sales, Sales Force Europe, with their pool of experienced professionals, can hit the ground running and very quickly ramp up sales leads and credible opportunities so companies can start to generate new businesses and be able to capitalise these leads into real deals immediately after this challenging time.”

Dan Jee, Singapore Country Manager and Telecommunications business development executive 

"In times of uncertainty and fear, like during this lockdown, it is crucial to think outside the box, and try new ways to find new customers. It could be in your local home market, or you could develop sales in a new country, and if you don’t have the expertise or resources inhouse, you can hire experienced sales professionals for assistance. Together with your partner, you set the objectives, processes and strategy plan together for how to enter this new market. It could be a combination of using the hired sales professionals, a contact network and a targeted sales lead generation program to find new prospects, which can be converted into new customers.”

Åke Hyppe, Nordic Regional Sales Manager, based in Sweden

“Don’t dream and try to force-match the company’s strengths with market needs. Instead reinvent your business model to generate opportunities and close the deals. And buy good shoes to run marathons for business recovery and to build sustainable client relationships. Enjoy the ride!”

Marek Grzegorzewski, Switzerland Country Manager

“Build ‘best practices’ for permanently working from home. Even before Covid, we were actively promoting a permanent work from home [WFH] methodology. The plan includes daily stand-ups to ensure productivity (across all divisions), weekly 1:1 meetings with staff to identify key contributor issues and to help shape their professional goals and objectives (rarely done in most organizations except yearly), weekly ‘all hands’ meetings to keep the entire company up to date on all key corporate milestones and initiatives, product development, engineering roadmaps and sales/revenue status.  More data suggests employees are more productive and work longer/harder when in a structured environment but working from home. It requires both management and employee discipline but, at the end of the day, your team, your company will be more productive and the cost savings on rent and miscellaneous office expenses can save your company up to 25 percent of overall expenses.”

Scott Sorochak, San Fran Business mentor at SparkLabs Global Ventures

“Simplify whatever administrative processes you can. In these uncertain times, you’ll attract and retain the right partners by making sure to be transparent about your pricing and to pay quickly. Focus on flexible project-based work with specified hours that allow you to control your budget and better measure your outcomes.”

Elena Centenera Ulecia, COO

“There's never been a better time to recreate your business and sales model. We will go back to a world with face-to-face sales... but not in 2020.  Every company — and salesperson — in Europe needs to restructure and retrain their teams to prospect and sell virtually.”

Aaron Ross, Partner, Predictable Revenues

“Having been through the worst of COVID-19 and got firmly back to business, East Asia’s recovering economies are the most viable markets for many western firms right now. It is true that travel restrictions are making it difficult to get out to the region, but that’s no reason to hold back on overseas expansion plans. As many companies are finding out, deals can most certainly be sealed from a distance – as long as you have skilled, well-connected people on the ground in Asia to represent you by opening doors, attending trade shows, building relationships and negotiating contracts on your behalf. In fact, despite all the global turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve concluded more deals for our clients in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan so far in 2020 than in the whole of last year.”     

Alan Mockridge, Partner, Intralink North America

And finally a tip from the first Sales Force Europe member, our founder.

"Stay active in both digital marketing, driving inbound and outbound lead generation, targeting specific countries, verticals and accounts. Localize as much as possible. Then streamline your pipeline process making it as easy as possible to move across the qualification process. If a prospect is not a good fit for your solution, qualify it out fast and don't lose time. This gives you extra time to focus on the winners. In times of crisis, we must be extra disciplined."

Rick Pizzoli, founder and CEO

What international sales tips are we missing? Share your advice with us on our Twitter!


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