Situation: A CEO wants to create new markets outside the US. They have investigated options and locations and are starting to plan. One question is how long it will take to start seeing results, so that they budget accordingly. How do you build international sales?
Advice from the CEOs:
- Decision timelines internationally are longer than they are in the US. For example, in Europe timelines are easily twice as long. This means that new entrants must budget for a sustained effort.
- It took another company three years to develop traction in Europe. They have an office in Germany, but most new sales are coming from Eastern Europe. After three years their European operation is now break-even.
- International markets, especially in Europe, can be very conservative. Job security and maintaining cash flow are the focus.
- Labor laws encourage companies to do things themselves rather than outsource. The result is that a new entrant will face competition from internal departments of potential prospects.
- In European the emphasis is not growth, but on conservative steady operation. Growth tends to come from acquisition.
- Sales pitches should be tweaked for international audiences. For example, highlight reduced need for additional personnel to manage the systems, fewer breakdowns and glitches, and the ability to count on seasoned outside expertise to quickly address complications.
- Relationship selling is very important internationally. Sales and tech support are best provided, and in some cases required to be provided in the local language.
- In Europe, Italy can be an important lever to sales with the right partner. Italian companies can be excellent at marketing and can jump-start European sales. This will be a very personal relationship.