“If you’re not growing, you’re dying…”
You’ve heard that, right?
We all have.
Well, there are limits to the growth you can do where you are presently. (That’s actually true personally and professionally.)
Growth involves new markets and new frontiers almost by definition.
But a lot of companies (and their sales teams) tend to make a plan (which is often more operations than actual strategy), put it in Excel or Google, and start cold calling/emailing or working their contacts. That’s the “new market expansion” approach.
Like with most of life, if you want to do something right, you need to start by thinking about it — and that involves asking your team a bunch of questions that will shape the approach to international expansion.
Here’s how we look at it.
The big international expansion questions to begin with
Can you deliver remotely? If you can sell but can’t actually deliver in the new market — onsite services and local support, complete with costs associated — then the contract won’t be lasting too long anyway.
What is the local legislative situation like? For example: the DACH market tends to be friendly to outside companies in terms of the legal and financial structures afforded them. Other markets? Not so much. You need to understand not only how much money you can make (sales projections based on product-market fit and other factors) but how much you’ll ultimately be able to keep, because the latter matters a lot more to most investors (or people in general). Also keep in mind what industry you’re entering: some, like gambling or even financial analysis, are much more highly-regulated.
What’s the status of competition? No competition can be lethal. It can mean that there’s no customers too or others had tried that market and totally flopped. You might do the same. But the flip side also is a problem: if another company has 30% or more market share, your expansion is going to be very tough.
Does your Ideal Customer Profile make sense here? In other words: are enough of your target companies in this market? Can you generate really strong revenue here in a repeatable way?
The next tier of International expansion questions (for Go-To Market)
Can you adapt to the business culture and language? You’re going to need to — and the dirty little secret is, you can if you want to. How do we know that? Humans were literally evolved to adapt. If you want the sale and the long-term contract that follows, adapt.
Are you talking to the right people? Sales teams sometimes listen too much to marketing and get this twisted. Not everything you do in the early stages is directed at the ultimate decision-maker/check-writer. You need to be talking to the right people, yes. Don’t get us wrong. But sometimes that includes also users or purchasing groups. Sometimes you need to build a trail to the decision-maker. And let’s also be honest about this: there are so, so, so, so, so many white papers and eBooks in every vertical now. True check-writers do NOT have the time to read them all. You are reaching a few that way, sure. But not all. Marketing often tells sales something like “This infographic reached 17 CTOs!” It did not. It likely reached people who report to someone who reports to the CTO. Be realistic and work your pipeline.
Is the problem an assumption or a reality? If you’re solving a problem that you assumed existed, you need top 5% salespeople. They can still sell to an imagined problem. 95% of sales reps can’t do that. But if you’re solving a problem that’s a reality based on market research and calls made, then you have a legitimate chance of getting a foothold in this new market.
What’s the status quo and how much do people care about changing it? This is probably the essential question of sales. Quick example: many executives care deeply about Big Data these days, and/or accurate tracking of their financials. If you come to them with solutions in those areas and they’re not happy with the present state, you can make a sale. But something like HR, or employee morale, or employee discussion/voice deals? Executives by and large don’t care. They are probably going to be fine with not budging from the status quo. When we say we want to reach “the decision-maker,” what we actually mean is “a person who cares enough about this to want to change.”
We tried to put all our findings together in the Go-To-Market Essentials blog post.