To be successful in the European market, you need to invest in the right people and the right setup. And you must dare to think long-term.
It's about people. You must dream big and choose your A-team.
When you need to build your team, you need to look at both the right setup and the right people. With that said, the right setup is also about the right people, but we will return to that.
Use your knowledge from your concept test, where your potential customers have told you where they expect to be able to buy your product.
Read more about concept testing in the blog post: O For Obsessed with local market: No - you should not export to Europe.
Now you need to find distributors who can reach these end customers through the right channels. But before you get too caught up in making deals in the US market, you must think ahead. You need to look at where you expect your organization to be in three to five years and plan accordingly.
For example, if you expect your company to produce ten times as much as today to meet demand, you need to take that into account when you start pricing your product. A larger production apparatus and more employees can mean additional costs - and you need to consider all that already at this stage.
Regardless of whether your concept test and your analysis of the future tells you to find distributors or have boots on the ground yourself in the form of, for example, a subsidiary, you must put together your A-team with the right people.
It is very important that you find the right people. I highly recommend finding the employees who manage to think outside the box and have more than one area of expertise. I usually call this type of people "Swiss Army Knives", and they can help you exploit your company's potential. They can do a bit of everything and get the job done - every time.
It takes a lot of preparation to find the right team, whether you are looking for a distributor or your own employees. Pay attention to three things:
You should ask about topics such as seniority and how they handle specific work tasks. It will give you an idea of their background and their approach to certain things.
Ask them to familiarize themselves with your product and your target audience in advance. Ask about the details you think are important that they capture. Of course, you cannot expect them to give you the whole sales talk, but they will again give you an idea of how they work and whether they have a feel for the product and the market. If your European business partners or employees do not understand your product, it will never be shown to the customers.
This point is only relevant when you need to find a distributor.
It can be easy for a European distributor to say that he covers all of Europe. But if it turns out that he is located in the northwestern corner of Europe and only has one employee, he is probably very unlikely to actually cover all of Europe as promised. So, he is probably not the right choice as your primary distributor.
The cost of finding the wrong team can be extremely high; in the worst case, you lose your foothold in the European market. It, therefore, pays to invest time and effort in finding the right people to take on your European export adventure. Because after you find the right people, it can suddenly go really fast.
Once you have found your A-team, whether it is your ambassadors with your suppliers or your own employees, you need to keep them and motivate them. It does not matter whether they are salespeople at a retailer, are in charge of customer service or are your own employees in a subsidiary. In the US, the awards culture is a natural way to motivate teams and encourage performance. However, In Europe, there are not quite the same celebratory traditions. There you will not experience the same level of internal competition to achieve the customary US award of “Salesperson of the Month”. When working with people in your sales force, it’s crucial to understand how people feel incentivized so you can structure your awards programs according to what will work best in your new market.
Do you want to know more about the European way of working? A good place to acquire this information is either through your local consultant/contact, through your preferred recruitment agency’s resource catalogue on human resource-related questions, or by visiting the Association of People Management in Europe.
I can guide you through the entire process of establishing your American company on the European market and finding your A-Team.
After working with international trade for more than 35 years, I have built up a large network, I have hands-on experience with sales in both the USA and Europe.
Contact me for a non-committal talk about how I can help your business with your next strategic step in the European market.
That’s it for the R of the COURAGE model - you need to be able to scale your business and invest in the right people. The right people can help accelerate your business and associating yourself with the wrong people can break your business. So make it a priority to invest in the right ones. That brings us to A: Around the Clock, which you can read about here on the blog next week. Stay tuned!
Charlotte Nytoft / Sep 28th, 2021
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