The 3 Truths of Gaining U.S. Sales TractionDecember 13, 2023
With 12 years of experience aiding international B2B and B2G companies in establishing traction and scaling in the U.S., we have distilled three fundamental truths. These insights emerged from observing companies learning these lessons the hard way, with the costs of failure ranging from financial losses in the millions to personal health challenges and even divorces. Follow these truths, and you’ll be well on your way to validating product-market fit, gaining traction, and scaling in the U.S.
Making a sale is difficult. The first sale in a new market is always the hardest. It takes a long time. The steps are uncertain, circuitous, and complicated. In the U.S. your lack of brand recognition, customer knowledge, and market-relevant success stories will challenge the trust needed to convert sales. The only way that the second sale is easier is if it has some proximity to the first sale.
Proximity means that the 2nd customer has a strong connection or relationship to the first. Ideally, they are in the same industry and the same geography. This proximity will leverage all of the knowledge that was gained in the first sale, customer pain, relevant use cases, implementation challenges to improve the speed and value of the second sales.
Besides improving sales efficiency, having a focus on customer density also streamlines customer onboarding, service, and maintenance.
The fastest and likely only route to scaling your company is to build a repeatable sales process. The fastest route to discovering your repeatable sales process is to build customer density. Not only should the second sale be easier than the first but the third sale should be easier than the second, and the fourth sale should be easier than the third, and so on…
Founder Driven Sales
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when entering the U.S. is to hire a local salesperson to initiate the first sales. There are a whole bunch of reasons why this doesn’t work including
- Local sales rep starts at zero. They have
- No customer stories
- No institutional knowledge
- No practice at relating to your target buyer about your “best fit” solution
- Local sales reps are expensive and in high demand. If U.S. sales reps don’t see success fairly easily they simply move on to the next sales opportunity.
- New market entry often requires support from key departments in the home office sales, marketing, operations, etc. Without strong relationships, authority, and gravitas it is quite often difficult for the local sales rep to command the support needed. It can be a lonely island.
- There is a big difference between selling, finding a first customer, and discovering a repeatable process. Starting your U.S. sales effort by hiring a local sales rep is like hiring someone to drive your car but asking them to build it.
- Local sales rep starts at zero. They have
Founder-driven sales bypasses all of these challenges and much better ensures success through the initial phase of U.S. expansion. The founder has all of the history and can relate the company story in a way that no newbie ever would. Founders also have the gravitas back at the home office to break through all of the issues that come along with supporting a new U.S. office.
The founder’s time in the U.S. might start at 2 weeks per quarter and incrementally grow as demand and opportunity increase. The phase of founder-driven sales continues until there is a repeatable sales process which is tested by one salesperson being hired and being able to make sales on their own. The initial phase is normally somewhere between 12-24 months.
Agile Marketing Communications
More often than not companies entering the U.S. have high confidence that they know how to attract U.S. customers. This confidence manifests itself when the U.S. website, sell sheets, and other promotional material are created in a fixed format that can only be edited by the home office or by some 3rd party.
Imagine your early U.S. market-entry strategy to be similar to going fishing. Anyone who goes fishing makes 3 basic decisions before they leave their house
- What do I want to catch?
- Where am I going to go fishing?
- What bait am I going to put in the water?
Apply these decisions to the first stage of U.S. expansion. The best approach is to brainstorm answers for all three questions, create a hierarchy of responses, and use an iterative process to test these hypotheses. An agile marketing approach allows for quick marketing asset iteration, enabling the local team to make adjustments easily as they learn. This low-friction approach reduces both the time and cost of discovering a repeatable and scalable sales system.
If your aim is to expand in the U.S., hopefully, you will not “relearn” the significance of customer density, founder-driven sales, and agile marketing communications. By strategically approaching the challenges of market entry, your company can enhance its chance of success by streamlining processes and ultimately establishing a strong foothold in the competitive U.S. business landscape. Hopefully, the lessons shared serve as a guide for navigating the complexities of the market, enabling your business to adapt, grow, and thrive in your pursuit of establishing a meaningful presence in the United States.
MEET helps international B2B & B2G companies gain traction and scale in the U.S. through trade shows, events, and strategic connections. Contact Bill Kenney for a no-obligation conversation: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 (860) 573-4821.