Building a high-performing sales team is difficult enough. Building a high-performing sales team that’s spread across multiple different countries and cultures is even more challenging. But if you do it well, there are no limitations on your success.
The Benefits of Going International With Sales
The decision to take your team international through expansion is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It requires a massive investment of time, money, and infrastructure (including building out an international sales team). But done well, the benefits will surpass the initial cost. Here are a few of the advantages you gain:
- Entry into new markets. If you’re planning to expand into new markets, there’s no better way to do it than by expanding your team to include international salespeople. Nobody sells better than a true local. And while you always train your existing team to sell internationally, it’s much more effective to work with people who understand the culture and speak the native language as their first language.
- Competitive advantage. International expansion gives you a competitive advantage over competitors who are only operating in a local market. The revenue potential is far greater and could help you become the most profitable company in the industry.
- Greater access to talent. Building an international sales team is a great way to expand your talent pool and onboard people you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. In many cases, these salespeople go on to fill executive leadership roles down the road.
- Ability to help more people. At the end of the day, expanding your market allows you to get your product or solution to more people. And isn’t that the primary objective in the first place?
As long as you go about it in the right way, expanding your business and building out an international sales team can be a great thing. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to execution.
5 Tips for Building Your International Sales Team
Building an international sales team requires careful planning and execution. Here are a few useful tips you can use to get ahead:
1. Get Feet on the Ground
You can learn a lot about a country (and what your target demographic is like in that country) by doing exhaustive online research. But nothing beats experiencing it firsthand. Before doing anything else, you should get some feet on the ground to get a feel for what the local culture and marketplace is like. It’s also a good idea to bring potential candidates into your home offices to help them get a taste of your company’s culture.
While most of your activity as an international sales team can be done remotely, you do have to account for the complexities of travel. Every country and region has its own requirements and nuances. For example, the ETIAS program is something you’ll need to be aware of when traveling throughout the E.U.
Don’t let all factors like these intimidate you – but do plan for them! The more you plan ahead, the more likely it is that you’ll have success from the start.
2. Find the Right People
Finding the right people to fit into your international sales team is the number one priority. And when it comes to hiring, there are really two primary schools of thought:
The first approach is to hire locals in the country. The benefit of going this route is that they know the language and understand the culture. They also have a clear understanding of who the target customer is, which makes it easier to push the right buttons. Having said that, they don’t know your company or products well. This means you may have to invest a lot more into training.
The second approach is to hire expatriates within the company. Not every business will be able to pursue this option, but if you have expats on the team, this allows you to penetrate a market with people who already have company and product knowledge.
“There is really no reason to limit yourself to only one of the two choices,” Mercuri International explains. “A properly selected combination might be the best way to go, as the locals and expatriates should thrive in tandem. The locals educate the expatriates and vice versa.”
There’s no singular formula for building an international sales team. It all depends on your desired approach and the people you have access to.
3. Train Your Team
When it’s all said and done, training is the key. Whether you hire locals or expats, you have to provide them with the right education.
Good training happens both during the onboarding process and on an ongoing basis. Locals will need training that’s heavily focused on product knowledge, while expats will need their training to be centered around the local market and culture. Additionally, all sales professionals will need quality sales training to help them get into the minds of your prospects.
4. Build a Cohesive Culture
When expanding to an international sales team, you have to remain cognizant of the importance of cultivating an internal team culture. This can be made more difficult when you bring in new languages, cultures, and experiences. However, it can also make you that much stronger. Now is the time to really double down on your mission and vision. This gives you something concrete to focus on.
5. Iterate to Great
It takes time to build a successful international sales time that produces consistent results. You can’t expect to get everything right the first time around. Implement a plan, track the results, and then study them. Keep the principles and processes that work, discard what doesn’t, and gradually iterate to great.
Build the Perfect Team
Some would say the perfect sales team doesn’t exist. And in one sense, this is true. There are always going to be certain limitations and flaws, as well as room for growth. But in another sense, the pursuit of perfection should always be the goal. By setting high standards, you ultimately set yourself up for success. And even with the challenges of international sales, it’s possible to achieve great results.