If you’re like most B2B companies, your inside sales teams—with their experience in virtual sales, digital competence and ability to work remotely—may have helped you to survive the extreme challenges of 2020. Now, you may want to make your inside sales strategy play internationally.
It’s a small world that gets smaller with every advance in communications and air travel. Companies expect to source their equipment, ingredients, technology and raw materials from around the world. So whether you’re selling IT solutions, banking services or package delivery, your market today is worldwide.
But while the international language of sales is based on value, relationship and respect, you need to consider local and regional variables to expand your inside sales efforts into foreign markets.
Selling 101— A Good Place to Start
Good sales strategies and tactics always start with the basics. Get to know your markets and the people that will be your prospects and customers:
- Understand Your International Prospects: Even if you sell into the same market sectors and firmographics, learn about the industries, competition, companies and pain points in every new market you enter worldwide.
- Be Strategic: You likely cannot conquer a new market in one fell swoop. So determine what it will take to get a foothold. Determine what’s most important in a new region, such as relationships, reputation, price, products or service levels. Then build your sales and marketing plan around your strengths. While you might have a global strategy, expect to tailor the tactics for individual countries.
- Build Relationships with Prospects: Companies are about people. You need to engage prospects, follow up regularly and build strong relationships. Expect the etiquette and time necessary to build your relationships to vary by region.
Go Digital, Virtual and Global
Traditionally, expanding into new international markets has been an expensive and logistical challenge. You needed boots on the ground. Typically, that meant opening many local offices, hiring local sales reps and even sending domestic executives abroad.
International inside sales changes everything. Remote sales reps can work from anywhere in the world. A virtual sales environment replaces the need for many face-to-face meetings. However, you need the technology and marketing to showcase, demo and share critical specs, customer stories, testimonials and more.
Based on our international experience—with offices in Rome, Italy and Tampa, Florida—we’ve identified five questions you need to ask as you prepare to enter a new market:
1 - Do You Know How to Appeal to Local Customers with Your Marketing?
Culture plays a big part in local advertising and marketing. For example, Americans are used to a more intrusive marketing style than many other parts of the world. Europeans might respond better to a softer, humbler touch. Know what plays with people locally.
2 - Are You Prepared for the Local Business Culture?
Inside salespeople need to understand the local culture and how it affects their approach. How should reps address prospects on the phone? How are relationships formed?
For example, in the US, it may be easier to start a new relationship than in Europe. However, in Europe, relationships are more likely to be formed over the long term and are harder to break. Of course, every country within Europe is different, so you’ll want to go beyond these generalizations. Sales reps need to respect the time, effort and etiquette required to establish strong relationships.
3 - Are Your Sales People Fluent in the Local Language?
While English is the dominant language of business worldwide, inside reps need to be careful to avoid slang and phrases and idioms that could easily be misunderstood. For example, the phrase “hit a home run” might resonate less in England than in the United States because baseball is not as popular.
It’s best, however, to be fluent in the local language. Native language speakers make a good impression, increase the comfort level, help cross-cultural barriers and open doors. That’s why we use the native language when calling prospects in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States and more.
4 - Are You Complying with Regional Regulations?
The United States isn’t the only country with lots of regulations and red tape, including rules about tele-sales. Knowing what you can, can’t (and must) do to comply with local and regional laws can save you headaches and potential legal trouble. For example, once a US company starts selling in Europe, they need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.
5 - Are You Hiring Local Talent?
Even as we begin to come out of the pandemic and shutdowns, international travel will be slow to recover. Working virtually and remotely helps overcome this challenge. While you may not need to open branches across Europe and Asia, you may want to hire some local talent—especially as you’re getting established.
Local tele-sales and inside sales reps can solve the challenges of fluency and culture; they may even have local business relationships. When you work with a professional inside sales and marketing firm with a local office, you can quickly establish your international footing and:
- Gain instant market access
- Avoid language and cultural misunderstandings
- Adjust your calling strategy as needed, without hiring/firing employees
- Work with a team that knows the local and regional regulations
This is the year to accelerate your digital sales capabilities around your inside sales team. Make sure you have the knowledge, understanding and talent to take your sales to new markets worldwide.
Call us at +1 813-320-0500 (US) or +39 06 978446 60 (EMEA), or contact us online for help meeting your international sales goals.