The Secret to Tech Sales in Turkey

As a sales and business development director hailing from the vibrant city of Istanbul, I've seen firsthand the unique challenges and opportunities that tech companies face when expanding into Turkey. Nestled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey is often overlooked in the tech world, overshadowed by its larger neighbors. However, those who take the time to understand the nuances of tech sales in the Turkish market will find a wealth of untapped potential waiting to be explored in Europe’s second largest country.

Turkey on the tech map

One of the first things to understand about Turkey is its ideal geographical location. With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Turkey bridges the gap between East and West. As a result, it attracts large numbers of tourists, immigrants and investors, so it’s well set up to serve several global markets. This geographical advantage makes it an ideal hub for tech companies looking to expand their reach into both continents.

Population rates are also thriving across the region, and Turkey’s young and digital workforce set them up to be in a prime position for economic growth, compared to some other European countries where birth rates are declining. In fact, their tech-native, uniquely young workforce (18-34) makes up around 26% of the Turkish population.

Why expand your tech business into Turkey?

I’ve got to start this section by saying that the Turkish market is quite a volatile one. The economy had a really good spell between 2004 and 2018, but since then, the volatility of the economy has somewhat increased. However, this has brought in a wealth of opportunities, especially for companies looking to promote their SaaS products. This is because rather than making a huge investment to a perpetual license or big CapEx numbers, they prefer to get on board with a SaaS product that's giving them more flexibility from a contractual point of view, pricing point of view and scaling point of view. And despite all these ups and downs, Turkey is still a growing economy, making it a place to watch for tech sales in the coming years, especially with Istanbul quickly becoming a hub for startups and scale-ups. Here’s some of the industries thriving in Turkey there right now:

  • Fintech – Turkey’s population is young and tech savvy, making it an incoming hub for Fintechs. According to Erkan Kork, the president of the Payment and Electronic Money Institutions’ Association, many Fintechs launched in the region have secured significant funds from investors. He added that due to increased interest in digital financing services, universities and research institutions are collaboratively organizing training programs and fostering partnerships within the field. Turkey also has wholeheartedly embraced open banking as a way to compete and collaborate with its European neighbors.
  • Automotive – Automotive giants like Ford maintain substantial manufacturing operations in Turkey and are actively investing in electric vehicle production. Also, given Turkey’s population growth and the ongoing urban migration from rural regions, effective traffic management has become imperative for cities. Consequently, local municipalities are allocating substantial resources to develop Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to address this pressing issue. Turkey is a great target market for automotive tech, which I’m finding with our current client, Paragraf and its high-performance graphene sensor technology.
  • Ecommerce – The e-commerce market is thriving in Turkey. After achieving a remarkable 90% growth in 2019, the eCommerce market experienced further expansion, increasing by 30% in both 2020 and 2021. It saw a 10% rise in 2022, reaching a total of $48.3 billion. Virtual marketplaces stand out as one of the rapidly growing industries, with 69.2% of those surveyed calling them their preferred shopping platform.
  • Telecommunications — The Turkish telecommunications market exhibits a high level of development, but also harbors significant potential for further expansion. Within the mobile sector, there exists a robust appetite for high-speed data services. Almost all of Turkey’s 97.6 million mobile phone users utilize smartphones. 5G is a huge priority, and the projects are already underway, with 6G on everyone’s radar.
  • Healthcare — In Turkey, the landscape for medical science startups is thriving. One notable example is the biotechnology startup Enbiosis, which garnered recognition by winning the UK Government Tech Rocketship awards for Digital Health in November 2022. Headquartered in Istanbul, this innovative firm specializes in utilizing AI analysis of the human gut biome to customize treatments for individuals. MedTech and mHealth companies have an important opportunity in Turkey.
  • Energy — Turkey has unveiled a new National Energy Plan, outlining ambitious objectives to revamp and diversify the nation's energy sector by 2035. The plan aims to achieve several targets, including the generation of 5GW from offshore wind, 5GW from electrolysis, and the establishment of 7.5GW of battery storage capacity. Therefore, tech expertise surrounding renewables, greentech and carbon footprint counting is welcome in the region.

Navigating the cultural nuances of the Turkish market

In Turkey, relationships matter. Building trust and establishing a personal connection with your clients is key to success. This means taking the time to understand the local culture, customs, and business etiquette. In Turkish business culture, it's common to engage in small talk — football, basketball, or volleyball, whatever’s in season in the Land of Four Seasons — before getting down to business. Taking the time to build rapport with your prospects can go a long way in establishing a strong foundation for future business dealings.

Another important aspect of doing business in Turkey is understanding the importance of hierarchy and respect for authority. Decision-making processes can be slow, as decisions are often made by a select group of individuals within the company. Account-based sales is key. It's important to be patient and persistent, and to demonstrate your expertise and credibility throughout the sales process. Things like turning up late to a meeting are also not uncommon and not frowned upon like they are in the US.

Another thing you must bear in mind is exchange rates. The Turkish Lira is more volatile and unpredictable, so when the value drops, budgets shrink as a result. Therefore we have to navigate the sales cycle carefully and if possible, quickly. This is where sales outsourcing may come in. Collaborating with Sales Force Europe means you gain access to our network of local contacts including decision makers and experts in these cycles.  

But don’t let these challenges put you off. There are also numerous opportunities for tech companies in Turkey — the country boasts a young and tech-savvy population, with a growing middle class who are hungry for innovative solutions. To thrive in this environment, flexibility is key. Tech companies must be willing to adapt their products, services and go-to-market strategies to meet the unique needs and preferences of Turkish consumers. This may require making adjustments to pricing, features, or marketing strategies to better resonate with the local audience.

Investment incentives

It’s a great time to be selling tech in Turkey! Because of its strategic location, Turkey is ideally centered for both global and regional trade. The Turkish government has made significant investments in infrastructure and technology in recent years, creating a favorable environment for tech companies to thrive. Incentives include potential eligibility for income or corporate tax reductions and exemptions, customs exemptions, interest support, employment incentives, grants, or regional incentives in lower income areas.

Favoured industries include:

  • High tech
  • Renewable energy
  • Automotive
  • Biotechnology

Not every business will be eligible for every incentive, but if you’re thinking about selling tech in Turkey, this is certainly something to think about. You can partner with a more flexible outsourcing partner for your first year of expansion into Turkey, but always consider your long-term vision when starting to sell abroad.

So what’s the secret to tech sales in Turkey?

While expanding into Turkey may present its fair share of challenges, it also offers immense opportunities for tech companies willing to invest the time and effort to understand the market. The secret is building strong relationships, demonstrating respect for local customs, and remaining flexible in your approach. Tech companies who follow these rules can unlock the full potential of this dynamic and rapidly growing Turkish market. If Turkey is on your radar, I’d love to hear from you. Please connect with me or contact our team so we can discuss how our partnership is helping businesses expand into this exciting market.

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