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Expanding Overseas? You May Need to Adjust Your Outreach

Semir Jahic headshot

Semir Jahic
Manager, Sales Engineering and Operations in EMEA, Clari

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Mountains, skis, lodges, and lakes—Zurich and Lake Tahoe might seem to have a lot in common. 

But when it comes to selling companies in the two locales, they couldn’t be more different. What works in the Utah lake town could mean a client showing me out the door in Switzerland. 

Say I want to show a prospect that my product—and my company’s approach—is trailblazing. In Tahoe, a perfect approach might be Sendoso gift of ski goggles with a cute note: “Get better visibility into your pipeline.” But that tactic would fall flat in Zurich. Getting a gift from someone you don’t know well would raise serious side-eye.

Just because your products translate abroad doesn’t mean your strategies do. Merely shifting your American sales and marketing plan overseas won’t work. There are differences in culture, communication, and etiquette that demand consideration when reaching out—and presenting—to executives and sales leaders in other countries. 

EMEA, which encompasses Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is a rapidly expanding market that offers high growth potential for software-as-a-service firms. The European SaaS market alone is expected to grow nearly 21% by 2024, KBV Research predicts. Targeting EMEA for SaaS business growth has the benefit of growing a company’s market without having to develop an entirely new product—a much greater effort and cost drain than hiring a few sales experts, or leveraging teams you already have in-house.

Here’s how to tailor your outreach and presentation strategies for success in the lucrative European market, which forms the cornerstone of EMEA business for many expanding companies.

Focus on the statistics

One of the most important things to keep in mind when expanding into Europe is that data always translates. A carefully researched, analytical approach stands out with EMEA clients.

But the storytelling around the data, or that augments the sales process, can differ. Presentation styles abroad are less flashy, less show based. They’re more analytical and to the point. They are very targeted to the company in question. As a report by Infiniti Research put it: “In most cases, highly localized content and marketing strategies that are suited to specific regions in Europe prove to be more effective.”

Take the U.S. strategy of sharing real success stories and customer reviews, which may help you come across as confident and desirable in America. In Europe, such content could be seen as too boastful.

For example, I recently attended a meeting between an American sales team and a Dutch company. During the 90-minute presentation, the Americans showed professionally produced videos that showcased the company’s success, highlighting the firm’s multi-round funding and positive customer testimonials. But they didn’t showcase enough what the American firm would do for the Dutch company. 

After the call, we debriefed as a global team. 

"What is great for us, is not necessarily what the prospect cares about,” I told them. “ We have to relate everything back to them." For example, it’s not about the news that a recent round of funding occurred, it’s key that we translate what a recent series of funding means for that prospect. 

Keep data privacy top of mind

Another cultural difference that American sales teams should keep in mind is national attitudes regarding data privacy. 

For example, in Germany, clients can be more conscious of their data and privacy early on in the process versus in the U.S, where security may not come up until the end of the sales process. There is a feature within Clari called the Opportunity Grid, where email meta data—not the content, but when and to whom emails are being sent or received—can be tracked in real time. 

In certain countries, such as Germany, Austria, or France, that kind of functionality often raises questions during the Clari sales cycle. When coming up against privacy questions, transparency is key. We’re transparent about the processing that occurs, and how Clari separates activity from HR performance monitoring. We clearly demonstrate the benefits to the individual and employee—that’s key to navigating a privacy review.   Following these steps Clari has been able to collaborate with prospects and individuals in privacy or security to address questions that go to the core of privacy regulations.

Where a prospective client’s data will be hosted can also be a point of concern. For example, clients overseas will regularly ask where your servers are located and therefore where their data will be stored.

International data transfers continue to come under scrutiny. This doesn't mean all data must be processed in the EU or UK, but an inability to address this question can kill a deal. A prospect may also want locally based customer success managers to help them customize their solutions, since that eliminates any delays due to time-zone differences that can occur when CSMs are based elsewhere.

Consider skipping the cold calls

In America, an eye-catching email or a clever cold call from an unfamiliar company may inspire you to Google the company or poll your network to learn more. This isn’t necessarily the case abroad. 

Consider the European Union’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for example, which allows individuals to ask companies to delete their data and is intended to give EU citizens more control over their personal information. This focus on digital privacy means cold calls and random emails don’t resonate too well overseas. It’s always better to have a warm intro.

Ultimately, being aware of cultural nuances will allow you to plan your market outreach strategy accordingly. This is an area where a platform like Clari can help. Not only does Clari collect and centralize all relevant sales data for easy reference, but Clari also speaks the universal language of forecasts and pipeline. Enhanced with artificial intelligence-generated insights, Clari works across boundaries and can help your team focus on the key metrics and data points they need to be successful in EMEA.

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