The sales mistakes to avoid when expanding your SaaS company to new European markets

Christine Källström • 18 Nov, 2021

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This blog post is for those who work at a B2B tech company and are looking to expand your business into new countries in Europe. Over the past 15 years, I have helped companies succeed with their expansion plans, with focus on meeting booking and telemarketing. In this blog post, I will shed some light on the most common mistakes I’ve seen tech companies make when expanding to a new country – so that you don’t make them too.

I have always had a curiosity for foreign cultures and languages. By the age of 26, l had lived in six different European countries. When I started my career in sales for a Scandinavian SaaS company and became part of their European expansion operations, I got to fully experience the impact that cultural variations in Europe can have when you want to run an international business. Today, over 13 years later, I’ve also spent five years working at Brightvision, where we help IT/Tech companies grow and expand to new markets through inbound and outbound. Here I’ve seen many more examples of what makes or breaks ambitious European expansion plans. We run campaigns in several countries, but most of the mistakes I’ve seen can be applied to all new European markets.

Common questions regarding expansion to new markets

There are a few comments and questions I hear over and over again from expansion-hungry SaaS salespeople and marketers, and I would like to start this post by addressing those questions and comments. These comments are the reason to why I decided to write this post, as I feel the need to clear some uncertainties when it comes to this topic.

Q: “We have tried with our English BDR team to call to the Nordics, but the results are bad.”

A: We get this all the time. You will always get better result when you use a native speaking BDR. This is a deal breaker. Read more about this question below, in “mistake nr 1”.

Q: “We want to expand to a new Western European market and expect to have our first clients within a few months.”

A: Remember, it takes time to get a new client on a new market. Make sure to have reasonable expectations and most importantly, have patience! Also make sure you have the right budget, which is usually higher than you think.

Q: “We are new to this region in Europe and have tried digital marketing with the American content I am provided with internally, but it doesn’t seem to create any leads.”

A: If you want to be successful with your content marketing, the content needs to be localized to be successful. Whatever works on one continent does not likely work on another.

Q: “We only have English-speaking salespeople to take the sales meetings generated from telemarketing. Is that still OK when we want to enter the German market?”

A: In some countries, English-speaking salespeople will work just fine. In others, they won’t. To learn more about this question, read “mistake nr 2”.

Q: “We had great results from a telemarketing campaign we did in Sweden. Can we expect the same hit-rate when we enter the British market?”

A: No, due to cultural variations, you should expect different results in different markets. Some markets are harder in general when it comes to telemarketing. To learn more about what hit rate to expect, contact me and we can talk more.

Eight common mistakes made when expanding to new European countries:

1. You don’t use native speaking BDRs.

For cold calling, use a sales agent that speaks the local language at native level and make sure this person really has experience of cold calling in the specific country.

This is the most important factor when it comes to expanding your business to a new market. Native speakers ensure a natural market entry into the countries thanks to their deep understanding of market culture, unwritten rules, and codes of conduct.

These are factors that give your company a better starting point. Native speaking consultants can interact in a more meaningful way with potential customers as they can speak with more confidence and better understanding of that country’s cultural norms.

In B2B sales it’s very important to understand the market of the target country as these can vary significantly depending on the country. Using native speakers is essential in gaining good presence in a target market as they also are up to date with any developments in their country. This brings us to the next point…

2. You don't understand the business culture in each country

Having a native speaking BDR is key, but you also need to make sure they understand the business culture.
Let’s take sales meetings as an example. In some countries, like Scandinavia and the Netherlands, it’s OK in general to take a business meeting with a new potential client in English. In other countries, like Finland, Germany, France, and Spain, it’s likely that customers are unwilling to take the meeting if not in their local language. Even if they do take the meeting in English, people might feel uncomfortable and less open to doing business with you.

3. Your database isn't good enough

In order to get through the switch board operator, make sure you have a good database, where you can get names and, if possible, also direct contact information of the people you want to reach out to. At Brightvision, we use a data provider called Cognism to get direct phone numbers and we thereby increase our efficiency significantly.

4. You are not using a good sales engagement software.

Being asked to send an email before calling is very common in countries like France, Spain, Germany, and the UK, and you want to make sure that this part of the prospecting is done efficiently. A good tip is to use a good software that helps you to automate this process. At Brightvision, we use Salesloft, a system where you can set up customized templates to send more one-to-one emails at scale.

5.You are not using inbound marketing to increase awareness.

When you combine Telemarketing/meeting booking with digital inbound marketing, you can increase awareness and conversion rates in your calls. When you finally manage to talk to your dream customer, you are more likely to book a meeting if the person had recently heard about you.

6. You are not running "integrated campaigns"

What I mean with “integrated campaigns” is to support your telemarketing efforts with digital initiatives. That could be e-books, customer cases, blog posts, landing pages, webinars, email nurturing and more. If you use inbound marketing and content to nurture your leads before picking up the phone, it will make the phone calls better and more likely to generate a meeting.
Where we see the greatest success cases are when our clients run integrated campaigns with a strategic mix of traditional telemarketing and inbound campaigns. Integrated campaigns with digital inbound marketing and telemarketing will bridge the gap and enable better openings for phone calls, as well as strengthen your brand and guides prospects and existing customers further down the funnel.

7. You skipped market research and are not aware of the variations in digital development.

For example, Scandinavia tends to be more mature when it comes to using digital solutions, and Scandinavians in general are more open to try new software than people in Southern Europe.

Evaluate the market. Spend some time learning the market you want to expand into. Who are the main competitors? How have sales and marketing been done historically? How many companies in the relevant target group have parent companies abroad that make all the decisions on investments? How is the culture around cold calls? Do people like web meetings? Are they likely to attend events? These are just some questions you can ask, but it gives some good indications on where to spend your effort.

8. You expect the same hit-rate in all countries.

In some countries, like the UK, France and Germany, it’s more difficult to get ahold of people than in the Nordics. Therefore, you need to expect more hours invested for every booked meeting. A good database is especially important on these markets.

Summary

In summary, I really wish that less companies would make unnecessary mistakes that cost a lot of money, energy, and time, and instead start up their European expansion with the right mindset and expectations for the investment.

Want to learn more about how your SaaS company can succeed on foreign markets using telemarketing and meeting booking? Check out our related content:

Want to learn more about how your SaaS company can succeed on foreign markets using telemarketing and meeting booking? Check out our related content:

How to succeed with your SaaS Telemarketing campaigns in the DACH region: https://blog.brightvision.com/en/how-to-succeed-with-your-b2b-telemarketing-campaigns-in-germany

How to succeed with your SaaS Telemarketing campaigns in Finland:
https://blog.brightvision.com/en/how-to-book-a-sales-meeting-with-an-it-decision-maker-in-finland

How to succeed with your SaaS Telemarketing campaigns The Netherlands:
https://blog.brightvision.com/en/top-5-tips-on-how-to-book-a-sales-meeting-with-an-it-decision-maker-in-the-netherlands

Don’t just take our word for it! Read more about how we helped our clients:

Siemens grow in Finland
Cryptas grow in Germany
Visma grow in Denmark
Admincontrol grow in Holland
RSA
 grow in Sweden

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