Selling B2B overseas

Jun 30, 2021

Sales is not the same wherever you go. When you’re selling to overseas customers, you may have to adjust your approach. Let’s find out more.

There are prospects in the EMEA region, the US and beyond who could benefit from the solutions you sell, if only they knew about it. However, before you pick up that phone and start calling, you need to know that B2B sales works differently in different countries. To succeed, you might have to adapt your style to align with your buyer. But when you get it right, it’s a great opportunity for sales professionals to build a career and companies to expand their business footprint.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the differences you might find as you sell to overseas prospects – and how you can boost your results. 

(Note: We’re talking here about cultural differences in sales, so there may be some generalising. We mean no offence!)

 

Getting down to business

In the UK, we don’t cold call a prospect and go straight to the hard sell or walk straight into the meeting and attempt to close the deal. Instead, we spend time building rapport. We talk about the weather or the football, for example. 

When selling overseas, small talk isn’t always required. In fact, it’s the opposite – Scandinavians and Russians don’t tend to go in for chit-chat. In Germany, they like to get straight down to business without wasting any time. It’s another example of EMEA being multi-cultural, with a complex mix of cultures and history. You can’t treat them all the same way.

On the other hand, some countries take their small talk further than the UK. In the US, it’s much more acceptable to talk about what’s going on in your life before you start selling, like your family or your pets. In China, people prefer to do business with people they know well, so a first meeting will be about getting to know each other rather than talking business!

Arguments and emotions

How much do you enjoy confrontation when you’re selling? In the UK, we tend to avoid an argument until it’s really necessary. 

That approach doesn’t apply everywhere, however. In the US and Latin America, it’s much more acceptable to be direct and confrontational while you’re negotiating. Buyers from these countries are more likely to be what we’d think of as tough negotiators.

Conversely, in Japan, they take the opposite approach. Japanese salespeople will do whatever they can to avoid an argument. It means the buyer has much more control over the sales conversation.

 

Pricing 

Pricing is one of the areas where B2B sales differs the most around the world. In the US, it’s understood that there will be a negotiation on price. Give-and-take is accepted and priced into the deal.

On the other hand, in Germany, a salesperson is more likely to say, ‘That’s the price. Take it or leave it.’ In Japan, a salesperson’s possible first move when they encounter any resistance from a buyer is to lower the price. 

 

Risk and adoption

Different countries develop at different speeds. Their economies, technologies and cultures can vary wildly. As a result, their attitudes towards new ideas can differ.

B2B tech companies that find success in the US often achieve similar results in the UK. Buyers in New York, San Francisco and London like to be seen as early adopters. However, sometimes they don’t see the same success in France and Germany, as buyers in those countries tend to be more risk-averse.

In Asia, buyers are even warier of risk. If you buy the wrong product, the consequences can be severe. When you sell to Asia, you may be asked more questions, and the process could take much longer.

 

Tips for success

After reading that, you may be worried about selling to overseas buyers for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. However, there are some ways of selling that work wherever you are:

  • Preparation is vital – When selling to international prospects, especially for the first time, research the cultural differences for their country. It will make you more confident and you’ll be ready for any curve-balls
  • Respect is universal – Remember there’s no right way or wrong way when it comes to sales cultures and customs. Show respect for your prospect’s preferences and they will show you respect in return. If in doubt, ask them how they like to be sold to
  • Speak English properly – English may be the international language of sales, but a buyer in Berlin or Tel Aviv may not have the same native command of English that you do. Speak clearly and precisely and avoid those English slang terms that sometimes slip out

 

Will COVID-19 change international sales?

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we buy and sell B2B throughout the world:

  • Companies are spending less and becoming more risk-averse
  • Without face-to-face meetings, everything is done remotely
  • There is a greater interest in digital products

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the question is how far sales will go back to the way things used to be. If companies are happy to continue allowing their salespeople (and buyers) to work remotely, no matter where they are in the world, it could iron out some of the differences we have talked about and create a more homogenous worldwide sales culture.

Time will tell.

 

The SaaSLeads solution

At SaaSLeads.io, we recruit, train and deliver sales development professionals into the heart of your organisation. Many of the SDRs we train up will go on to sell to EMEA countries or even further afield. During our three-month sales development training programme, we talk at length about tailoring your approach to prospects in different countries. 

We train and coach our reps to build rapport, ask the right questions and tie your product to the prospect’s pain. When it’s time to get on the phone with your potential customers, wherever they are based, our SDRs have every skill they need to perform.

 

Find out more from SaaSLeads.io

If you would like to build your SDR team with talented graduates from SaaSLeads, or you just want to find out more, visit our site – https://www.saasleads.io/.

Lena Miah

Lena is our Marketing Executive here at Saasleads.io. She is versed in all things marketing and loves creating thought provoking, inspirational, and informative pieces for the company. 

Lena was born and raised in London. She has a passion for all things words and completed a BA degree in Journalism at the University of Roehampton. 

When she isn’t keeping the company blog in tip top condition she can be found in a yoga class or checking out the London food scene, but if the food isn’t up to par she could bake it all herself. 

You can find Lena on LinkedIn here 

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