Map Data: Yellow River, China
Google Earth, Google Maxar Technologies
Why is hiring junior overseas sales representatives tempting from a cost perspective but ill-fated on delivery?
Consider this scenario.
A US-based B2B software firm finds product-market fit and starts to grow. They are closing more clients, or maybe they are closing bigger deals. Growth leads to curiosity about international markets and product-market fit. Couldn’t their solution be just as great a fit for similar problems outside the United States? The answer isn’t so simple.
Recognition that markets and business culture function differently abroad creates a hesitancy to throw too much too soon at market exploration and international expansion. Perfectly reasonable, but here’s where the mistake often is made:
In the spirit of cost-conscious or cautious exploration and as a result of their own limited network, the firm hires a junior local representative in each foreign market with growth potential. Perhaps these representatives each shine technically and communicate effectively back with the Western firm, but they generally lack strong local connections that are real in practice. Overlooking the importance of this is a major mistake, but it is understandable. A deeply experienced and better connected fulltime hire represents a much bigger investment, which feels unwarranted for an untested market. Even if the firm wanted one, a senior local candidate is also harder to find and he/she are often tenured with their existing company. Ass such, talent is often inundated with compelling local offers.
“In hierarchical societies, the chances that a junior person will be able to engage at a senior level to close major or timely deals is pretty much nil,” explains Greg Wade, Senior Associate at BYG Advantage. It doesn’t matter how great the solution is or how ambitious and clever they are in the sales process. It just won’t happen. Western companies tend to expend 1-2 years devoting significant concentrated effort on trying to get more out of junior people only to experience less than desired performance. .
So how do you achieve excellent international growth efficiently through senior local representatives?
First, recognize that the power of your sales force’s network is more important than their full time devotion to you. If they close, they close. They are more accessible to you employed part time, and their practical experience will help them come up to speed faster on your product or service. Less of their time actually goes further. In other words, achieve more with less.
Second, accept that you will likely not find such people through your own direct network, and attempting to build your own network in international markets will take years. You’ll need to rely instead on a third party network. Look for one with a strong track record in your target markets representing similar firms.
Third, understand that more experience closing local deals tends to mean less experience communicating with Western firms. You cannot rely on your current playbook for setting realistic sales targets, quotas and tracking progress across different business cultures. You’ll need to rely instead on an intermediary who can translate key nuances, updates and needs back and forth.
How about an example?
Sure. Trustonic is a UK-based cybersecurity firm that embeds their technology into smart devices and connected vehicles to prevent hacks and other cyber threats. Their robust solution led to rapid growth and spurred interest in expanding internationally into Greater China. Just the kind of exciting momentum feeding the temptation to hire their own local Chinese representatives.
Recognizing the three above tenets, however, Trustonic sought out BYG Advantage and relied on the platform’s expert sales representatives and process to quickly close major deals with giant Chinese mobile phone OEMs Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo. The decision constituted a much more effective use of investment than hiring local junior candidates and attempting to manage them directly in house. In the words of Greg Wade “mid-level management talks to mid-level management”. “If you want to expand your prospects and your probability of closure, align your senior representatives with their peers who hold decision making or influencer capabilities”. BYG was able to deploy individuals with 15 years and real connections and relationships across a variety of sectors, exploring multiple possibilities before zeroing in on the ideal clients and deal structures for maximum long term success.
Trustonic continues to work with each of Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo through BYG Advantage.
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