By Lisa Calhoun
How to gear software sales for global success
Technical barriers to selling around the world are lower than ever before. Yet there are still many complexities that make it tough to sell software successfully overseas.
Based in Atlanta, N3 fields the largest outsourced cloud sales team in the world and is the fifth fastest-growing private company in the city. Laue has helped Microsoft, SAP, Rackspace, HP Enterprise, and many other tech companies grab market share and grow overseas. I met the company a couple years ago when they became a client at the Atlanta PR firm I own, and loved learning Jeff’s approach for gearing up a software product or service for global success.
See which of these strategies might unlock your own software sales overseas:
Find native language masters close to your HQ
Language differences are the most obvious inhibitors to international sales campaigns, but you don’t need an office in every outpost to sound local.
“A huge number of native language speakers can be found in just a few strategic locations,” says Jeff. “N3 serves much of Brazil using native Portuguese speakers in Atlanta, and our sales team in Dublin has native speakers for every language in Europe and the Middle East.”
Take no shortcuts with culture
Speaking the right language is just part of the fluency you need. Your sales team must also be fluent in the cultural norms of the markets they serve. For example, Norwegians prefer seeing proofs-of-concept before deployment. Portuguese prospects like to have a relationship before even considering a solution. In Brazil, many customers are still developing their cloud expertise and appreciate conversations that help them build a successful cloud roadmap.
Tactics that work in one country—or even city—can be ineffective in another. This is why people who truly understanding the local market, not just the language, are so important. “People who truly understand cultural nuances are vital to success,” says Jeff. English may be the language of global business, but it’s not necessarily the language your software buyer wants to use—even when they can speak it.
Focus on market maturity issues
Before diving into any market, know if it is ready for your offering. Some may require different selling techniques, while others may not be worth entering at all or be so mature that opportunity has become limited.
“The cloud and software-as-a-service is really starting to boom in Europe, like it did in the US a few years ago,” says Marcel Florez, Senior Vice President of N3’s Cloud Practice. “Many German companies are new to the cloud and are sometimes hesitant to work with cloud providers who host their data outside of the country, due to legal concerns. It’s vital to understand the laws and be able to address these concerns.”
Tune social media and phone call ratio
Using the right communication channel is key to reaching decision makers and cultivating leads. While some combination of digital and telephone communication works well in most markets, getting the ratio right makes a big difference.
“Japanese customers often question the value of providing information to someone they don’t know, so a sales conversation needs to start with the benefits to the customer and be framed in a way that lets them know if they provide information they will get something of value back,” explains Marcel. “But in India, it’s common for prospects to jump right in and start asking questions. Respecting preferred modes of communication can make or break a sale.”
$127 billion market
In software sales, sustainability is defined by total customer lifetime value, recurring revenue is king. Gartner predicts the global cloud computing market will reach $127 billion by next year. Success is primarily shaped by your user volume, and that means going big is how you get there, in every language.
This article first appeared at Inc.com.