It’s natural to look around at the international competition and wonder about new potential for your tech business. After all, you’re confident in your product or service, and doing well in your home market, so why not leap into new territory?
But, are you really ready for international expansion, whether that’s to Europe or further afield? Invest some time before spending money on the initial process — thoroughly investigate and research. Look before you leap. The timing must be right. How do you even know if you are ready?
Let’s look for the five signs you are ready for international expansion, as shared by our CEO and CRO at London & Partners’ “Sales & Scaling in Europe” for London-based startups and scale-ups.
We’re all aware the world has been pretty unsettled of late, the global pandemic and current war in Europe leave us in no doubt that things are apt to change quickly, and we continue to deal with change and adaptation. Working from home is the norm, and we have found that bending our sails to match the recent crises is the best defense.
“I think everybody is doing some European sales. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you're ready for European sales. You won’t really scale until you start to focus,” Rick Pizzoli, our CEO at Sales Force Europe said. So that brings us to point one of the five signs you are ready for international expansion.
“The first step before you go international is to solidify your space in the commercial market. Get good customers in your home market, happy, paying customers”, advises Rick.
Use them. Publish and talk about glowing references and testimonials as much as you can, especially if potential customers abroad recognize them. If “everyone is doing some European sales” then show why you are the best choice in your vertical.
You have continually tested and know that you are providing value to your core target verticals. You understand where you are which means you will understand where you are going. Perform a sales assessment for clarity, and a good outsourced sales agency will do this with you, so there is reduced risk. You will be encouraged to clarify your messaging, strengths and weaknesses, and the competition where you are going. You will understand why you successfully win and sometimes lose deals. It’s really important to get your house in order before taking your business and your brand abroad.
Demonstrating your commitment to an international audience means being able to understand and know that audience first. You will be prepared to put local people into new territory and ready to hit the ground running. Your existing sales team might be doing great in your home country but they may not perform the same on foreign shores if they don’t know the culture, the language, and the nuances.
Gavin Page, our CRO at Sales Force Europe stresses this. He noted that while “Some people are really brilliant at selling themselves and can be selling stuff tomorrow, whether they can actually sell those things in a different territory to where they are now is completely different. You're not interacting with customers directly. At least the advent of video calling and the move towards that provides more transparency but it's still not the same as actually understanding that interaction with customers”.
So you’ll want to hire a sales team to get right in there at the source. What if you hire yourself, independently?
Gavin warns “It can work. But then the salesperson wants to be a manager. They say they are going to roll the sleeves up, probably sleeves up far enough to be able to justify bringing in a team behind it. That's what they know and that's what he does best. And that's really what they are - the salesperson who wants to be a manager. If you don't make them a manager within six to nine months, they’ll go somewhere else to be a manager. So nor are you worried about how you are going to manage that country once they’ve got that business for you? So just get them started. Don't worry about whether they can be a manager. Just manage them and get them to be a salesperson because once they’ve gotten pipelines they convert enough sales, then you've got a management product. And it's something which so many people make the mistake of and you see it quite often. Now there are some exceptions to the rule. Okay. There are some very good sales directors who roll their sleeves in getting prepared for the new company, new country first. If you've looked at it, they've done it four or five times before.”
Outsourcing a local sales team reduces all of that risk. You won’t be looking at having the expense of rehiring in six months or whenever the original salesperson wants to move on. A seasoned and experienced team is hand-picked for you, and you are in the driving seat, with the ability to scale up or down at will.
Examine the results and the metrics. You have questioned whether your type of tech company is a good one to take into Europe. And, while you need the enthusiasm and confidence in your vertical to be ready for international expansion, you also need the proof. Where is your audience coming from? Your B2B lead generation and marketing teams work hard on content creation and social media to shout out your product or service.
If you can demonstrate results from business lead generation services that show there is piqued interest in your product or service abroad then maybe that’s where you should be headed. With today’s trend of working remotely, and more and more consumers buying online, this is likely. What’s the best way to test the water? You might find that the best way to service international interests is to hire local sales representatives. They will possess deep knowledge of local networking culture and can lay the foundations for successful relationships and future international deals.
What if your home market is simply no longer enough? Maybe you have simply outgrown it. You’re providing a solution, but you need new leads and definitely more sales for continued business growth. Perhaps those new and reachable customers are international ones. A good way to test the market is with a feet-on-the-ground test approach, feeding the results back to your existing headquarters. Manage the risk.
Start small and scale up as required, which can all be done easily with an outsourced sales agency and strong top to bottom strategy, prior to any lock, stock and barrel physical move to new territory. And those trusted sales representatives on the ground will all the time be building your brand, and your reputation, for long-term trusted customer relationships. This is also a good time to assess the competition, locally and know where you stand.
So, you’re doing well, you’re ready to take your tech business to the next level. Scaling up into new territory is a big business decision, a make-or-break one in many cases. All business decisions, big or small, carry a degree of risk. But, it is possible to maximize on success and manage that risk simultaneously.
Choose the right strategy and method for forging ahead, with enthusiasm coupled with a practical approach. And do your research. Once confident that you have mapped out the best strategy for your tech business, that’s the clearest sign that you are ready for international expansion.
We're biased and we think Europe is a great place to start. Let us know if you need help!