1. Customers will sniff you out if you try and fake it
You have a successful business in one country, and you think you can replicate your processes somewhere else.
You think what you do in London will work just fine in the US or Asia.
That's because regions operate in a different manner.
In the States, you can be a little more bullish than you can in EMEA, and your salespeople might think nothing of going straight to the CEO. You can also be a little more bold in EMEA than you can in APAC.
But you need to know that APAC is an in-person, shake-hand culture. They're not doing business with people who just call over the phone.
So before you start to build out your processes for global expansion, you have to figure out what that region requires.
Ah, so you’re an American? Goodbye, Mr Pushy!
When it comes to sales, you can't run a global business development organisation that's going to send out emails and make calls and have all that based in the Americas.
That's because Americans don't sound like the British. And we don't sound like people from Australia or New Zealand either.
As soon as you make contact with a client in a different region, they know you're speaking a slightly different version of English to them, and they make assumptions about you. For example: if you're American, you're going to be pushy.
And that means they often don't want to work with you.
Latin America will eat you alive if you don’t set up shop there
You've got to have teams in the region who are local people who speak like the people you want to do business with.
Take Latin America. If you want to do business there, you better have an office there and show that you're invested in their country and culture.
If you think you can just call there, get a lead and close it, you're out of your mind. You need a local office, you need to have a business registered there, and they need to see you at school and town hall meetings.
It's the only way they'll start to trust you – and that's how you get business there.
If you absolutely can't be in a different country in person, use an SDR biz dev company. We work with one of these in the US, and they have offices globally staffed by local people who speak the local dialect. So that's one way to get around it.
2. Everything has to align
If you write content in American English and put it into British hands to read, they'll think, "Great – another American company trying to come over here."
In many companies, head office says, "Everything has to be written this way," but you've got to let go of that mentality. It's a problem I've seen at three different companies I've worked with.
I even saw it with my current company, which is based in London, who were writing in British English and trying to sell to Americans.
I immediately started getting, "Oh, you guys must be a British company. We don't want to do business there."
Part of the issue is that words mean different things in different countries. For example, I may say something here in the US that means "good", whereas it means the opposite in the UK. And vice versa.
Cultural differences count: how overriding the chain of command cost us $200m
I was once selling to a major company in Japan. My sales rep didn't get the answer they wanted from their point of contact, so they said, "I'm just going to call the CEO and ask why he hasn't signed off on this $200 million purchase order."
Guess what happened? The CEO cancelled the deal.
We were the vendor of choice; they had to buy our product – and we knew it. And yet they cancelled the deal.
When I called up to do a win-loss with our contact, which I always do, I asked what happened. And he said, "You overrode the chain of command. You called the CEO, and he decided to cancel you guys."
Simple as that. They chose to do nothing – costing their company $20m in revenue that year – because respect was broken and we didn't follow the chain of command.
3. Help your international teams to work together
If your teams don't trust each other, and one thinks the other is stealing their business, you have a problem.
Let's say a UK company is expanding to America. The UK company has been working with five prospects in the Americas, with a pipeline of $10m.
So you turn on the new region and hand the pipeline to the new team because you want them to be a success.
And now you're going to try and tell me that the UK team isn't mad about it? Of course they are!
This is a problem that everyone faces. They create a war they didn't even know about.
Cough up $100k – and 10x your investment!
Instead, take the hit and double-comp these guys. Maybe it's going to cost you an extra $100k, but everyone will be happy because they're making money.
The new team you just hired is actually going to be trained by the old team because they now have a vested interest – and they've got someone local who can help them close the deal.
If that costs you 100 grand, you'll make it up tenfold because your teams will be calling each other up saying, "Hey, I got this amazing opportunity from Brazil. I know it's my region, but you speak Portuguese, so why don't we put this deal together like we did last time?"
Think outside the box to connect your international teams
One thing I do that helps teams around the world to really connect is Funny Shirt Friday.
It sounds stupid, I know. Here's how it works: no matter where you are in the world, you wear a funny shirt – a Hawaiian shirt, your team shirt, whatever – on a Friday and post pictures.
So APAC is always first, and when EMEA gets in they see the funny shirts and comment on them. And then the Americans start work, and they see what APAC and EMEA have done – and you get chatter and banter across regions.
It's worked at every company I've ever been at, and it means your sales teams will build relationships that will help them land the deal they're working on tomorrow, next week or next month.
And you know what? I send out a reminder every Thursday at the start to get this thing going, but after three or four months, they're posting on their own and are looking forward to it.
You have to find ways to keep your international teams connected. This is especially true for your engineering team. If they're only based in one region, your salespeople on the other side of the world might have to wait days to get an answer to something while they're trying to close a deal.
It's far better to have a percentage of your engineering team in each territory.
How you build a platform and the way clients use it will be different for each region. By spreading out your engineers, you'll get them to bring stuff back that affects and improves your roadmap.
/ Shane Oren
CRO at IDVerse