Being promoted to the International SDR team can be really exciting. Not only will you find out where places like Vilnius, the ‘G-spot of Europe’ is but you will learn about different cultural nuances that cannot be ignored when prospecting internationally. Business is done VERY differently in every country. Did you know that you can set up a meeting with a CEO of a large corporation in the Scandinavian region over email, but that would be unthinkable in Italy?
The fact is that in most European countries people work to live, they do not live to work. Now, that is a completely different mindset when it comes to business; they love their time off. In certain countries, businesses close at 5 pm and stay closed over the weekend. Most European countries have numerous national holidays and most Europeans enjoy 28+ days off a year.
I know what you are thinking…that’s a lot of detail to remember. Sales is sales, business is business and as a top performer, you will succeed in any environment. And you are absolutely right!
Having worked on both sides of the ocean, I can say that knowing the cultural context into which you are selling will not only allow you to open more doors and connect with your potential buyers on a deeper level but will also allow you to work smarter and hit your quota faster. It will allow you to get that promotion to AE much easier if you follow these simple steps:
1. Do not assume
Anything! Keep an open mind (and especially open ears) when speaking to your potential prospects based outside the US.
2. Know your geography
Check out where the company you are calling is located geographically and learn one interesting fact about the location. Examples include what the national sport in the country is, who the hot startups to follow are, what they are proud of (not what they are known for, 2 very different things), etc. Avoid conversations involving any clichés like pasta and gondolas while speaking to someone from Italy or Oktoberfest while speaking to someone from Germany. The smaller the country, the more important this becomes in your conversation. You will earn or lose respect just based on that.
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3. Mind the gap!
Make sure to take the local time zone into account before you pick up the phone.
4. Make an extra effort
Google and practice how to pronounce your prospect’s name! Your effort will be appreciated. LinkedIn just announced this new feature. Make use of it!
5. Slow down
English is the official business language in most of Europe, but that doesn’t mean it’s your prospect’s first language. Slowing down and matching the pace of the conversation will allow you to build rapport much faster. Here’s more on NLP Mirroring and Matching Techniques.
6. Have patience
Response time and prospective deal cycles will move at a slower pace in every stage of your pipeline than you are used to. Business decisions are made at a much faster pace in the US vs. Europe, especially vs. Southern Europe. This is a bit of a generalization, the main idea here is to keep an open mind in terms of timelines as your deals move through the pipeline.
7. Lower your expectations!
Generally speaking, communication travels at a slower pace in Europe vs. the US. Do not expect a response after 5 pm if you are dealing with the Dutch, for example. In fact, calling later than 5 pm is considered rude in the Netherlands.
8. Consider learning a second language
Although the official business language is English, it would make a huge difference if you spoke the local language – especially if your main market is located in Southern Europe.
9. Know your local competitors
Knowing your local competition and how the product/service you are selling stacks up against them is more crucial than ever. Locals often prefer to support a local business over a foreign one even if your service/product ranks higher.
10. Network locally
Expand your social network in the country you are selling into and network locally. Referrals can be a powerful tool to get your foot in the door.
11. Utilize translation services if you can
Request to have marketing material translated into the local language you are trying to sell into. It will make a huge difference.
12. Consider looking for a local mentor
There are hundreds of unwritten business rules in every country that would not fit into a blog post. Hiring a local mentor could accelerate your prospecting prowess and help you get accustomed to the local culture faster.
13. Don’t quit!
Selling internationally will not only enrich you personally but will also make you a more versatile sales rockstar.
Take these tips and start building up an international prospecting strategy! Have anything you want to add to this list? Send them to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and we’ll make sure to share them with the community.
Monika Holland is founder and CEO of BoldBusinessDecisions. She has built her international sales career while living and working in 5 different countries and selling across EMEA and Americas. BBD was born out of a burning desire to help as many companies scale internationally by adopting a highly effective coaching approach. As an executive sales leader, Monika Holland has earned a reputation of achieving top sales results, unprecedented market share growth and business development in new markets while building powerhouse sales teams. Her versatile background and expertise lies in B2C and B2B sales, SaaS Sales, Strategic Account Management and Business Development as well as ability to identify new business opportunities and scale the business. She has scaled companies like British SaaS company Traveltek, Accor Group and an American OTA HotelPlanner.