Many companies would like to start selling overseas but their not sure when they’re ready. One of the key components of being ready for that is preparing your organization for changes that are required in order to deal effectively and compete in the international marketplace. Many companies wait too long before they go international because they feel that they don’t have the resources required. Other companies go too fast and don’t recognize the costs involved. As a result their efforts can fail. So when is the right time? A lot depends upon the kind of company you have, the kind of market that you’re in, the kind of products that you sell, the gross margins that you earn, and the resources that you have in order to invest in international sales and marketing.
An easy way for a company to start out in the international market is through third party distribution channels. Distributors, resellers, agents, OEMs, and the other forms of third party channels represent an excellent way for a company to start it’s international sales and marketing efforts without expending too much fixed costs. Other companies decide that it makes sense for them to wait to go international until their capable of actually adding their own international sales force to sell directly. In some companies this makes perfect sense because selling directly is by far the most cost effective method to get their products to market.
Many companies pursue a hybrid solution where they develop their international sales channels through third parties to start, and then begin layering direct sales forces onto those channels in order to manage them effectively. As countries begin to generate enough revenue to justify it, they begin to add direct sales forces in country to augment their capabilities in key markets. This is what I did in both Europe and the Far East. I started through third party distribution channels and then added into major markets such as Germany, France, Italy, the UK and then the Far East into Japan, China, and South East Asia and ultimately into Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Many American companies overlook the great opportunities that there are to boost their revenues and profits by building a global sales effort. In fact, American manufacturers are way behind other companies in terms of their dependence on exports and their realization of how exports can help them to grow their business. Why do I think this is? For one thing, America has it’s own vast internal market and as a result of that, many business owners can find plenty of opportunities to sell their products locally, regionally, or nationally and even the national program is quite difficult for many business owners to foresee as within their scope of capabilities. But for American companies with our innovative spirit and our technology prowess, we have great opportunities to compete overseas.
Developing an international mindset is a very important part of setting the foundation for going international with your company. If you’ve traveled overseas or had extensive experience in dealing with foreign languages and cultures, and you’re interested in other parts of the world besides the US, this sets an excellent foundation for taking your own company international. In particular, if you’re thinking about going international and you have these sorts of interests but you don’t have the time to personally develop this, it’s quite possible to go find talent that is capable of focusing on this effort.
Starting an international sales and marketing effort begins with finding a talented, experienced, global sales professional who has the knowledge and understanding to set up and develop overseas distribution channels for your company. It’s quite easy to recruit this kind of international sales and marketing talent if you know where to look. Finding professionals with regional interests and language skills of European, Latin American, or Asian focus is an important part of expanding your international sales. Companies that are serious about expanding their business internationally and selling in key markets throughout the globe typically regionalize their efforts and add sales and marketing professionals with the right ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds in order to match up with the markets they’re trying to attack.
The great news about recruiting these types of individuals is that many of them are readily available living here in the US. Why is that? Because we’re a melting pot! We have immigrants from all over the world who come to this country to live, yet still posses the knowledge of language, cultural, and even travel experience back to their homelands. If you’re thinking about taking your company international and you’re thinking in particular about a certain market or set or markets, start thinking about recruiting the right sales talent to direct your efforts with the right experience and skills as I’ve mentioned above.