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How to execute your international sales strategy



Sales, sales, sales. Sales are the core of any product line and ultimately determine a company’s success. Growing sales means expanding your influence. As I’ve discussed in my previous posts, making the international move is smart, as long as it’s done strategically.

What does “strategically” mean exactly? Well, I can tell you this: strategy isn’t simply hiring a bilingual rep to dial phone calls all day. That’s a start, but it’s much more dynamic than that. As we’ve discussed, speaking their language is only a small piece of a successful sales motion. Sure you can communicate, but do you understand the culture and their needs and drives? Most importantly, can you close?

There is a methodical approach to international sales. The method depends on the culture with which you’re working. In Latin America, following the chain of command is the prime directive. It’s highly important and rarely challenged. Your job as a Latin-American employee is to listen and deliver without qualms or questions. In contrast, United States culture focuses on equality and, on occasion, questioning the status quo. Along those lines, trust is the true value to a Latin American customer. As long as you gain your customer’s trust, you are setup for success.

So you can see the differences between these cultural styles can make or break your international sales effort. I will provide you with some proven process and communication tactics in both cultures that should help you in shaping your sales team.

Due to our attention to culture, MarketStar has been extremely successful in recruiting and retaining talent. In our industry we experience a 25% employee turnover rate, while MarketStar sits at less than 5% per year. The reasons for our low attrition are twofold:

1. Competitive salary: paying in extremes can be counterproductive and hurt employee morale. It’s crucial to pay competitive salaries to stay even-keel and relevant in the marketplace.

2. Managing individuals with clear expectations and structure, allowing employee input on those expectations. (a.k.a., Management by Objectives)

We find it vital to hire the right people, pay a competitive wage, train them on company culture and processes, and, most importantly, believe in them.

Along with differences in leadership and retention, execution also plays a vital role in closing sales. Often neglected, yet very important, sales teams need to be disciplined and have a sales process for Latin America. They also need to be tactical when building their pipeline. Every visit or call should immediately be tracked in a CRM tool. This means you need to enable your sales teams with a simple, yet dynamic, CRM tool. It should also include a reporting package because you can’t improve something you can’t measure. There are many, MANY different tools out there and pricing is as various as the tools themselves. It’s important for you to choose the tool that best meets your needs.  It’s also important to consider the flexibility of the tool. The key question to ask yourself is: how long does it take to implement?

Once you’ve found a proper CRM tool, you now have more capability in creating, measuring, and coaching towards the end goal. Some basic goals include a pipeline that measures your opportunities from initial contact to closing. (Side note: understanding a lost opportunity is as important as understanding why you won an opportunity.) This should then roll up into monthly and quarterly closing goals. A good rule of thumb is that your pipeline should triple your closing goal. (e.g., if you have a closing goal of $300,000, you should have at least $900,000 in the pipe.)

The last point I want you to consider is vision. To stay ahead, you should create proper support teams to help maintain a constant stream of services and culture. This includes Business Intelligence, HR, Legal, etc. This provides stability to your company and employees, helping the team feel they are part of the overall corporate organization. It’s also important to keep healthy competition in your organization through both internal and outsourced sales teams. These teams can feed off one another. The outsourced team can play an additional role as an incubator and a source of new ideas and methods for the overall program.

We’re coming to the final stretch of this series. Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for my final post where I’ll discuss the future (and potential) of Latin America sales programs.