Welcome! In this Takehill blog we will discuss:
- How to find your first new customers when entering new markets
- Why is prospecting still important, and how to do it right
All companies entering new markets must find ways to fill their pipeline with high quality leads. There are several ways to find customers, such as:
● Inbound sales + inbound marketing w/SEO and content strategy - driving traffic and MQL to SQL leads
● Networking - hoping to find buyers through your existing contacts and warm referrals
● Outbound prospecting - reaching out to people who do not know you, based on their target profile, with cold-calls, social media, and emails.
These all have a place in your overall sales operations mix. During your US market entry program, however, you typically would like to get the first customers closed as soon as possible to validate your product-market-fit in the new market. Generating inbound leads with interesting inbound content is great and certainly required as the long-term strategy, but it takes time if you do not have it running already. Networking and referrals may work, or not, depending on what you are selling and if your networks are a good match. Typically, they are not.
So, unless you already have high quality leads flowing in from the US market, to find your first wins you often must employ outbound prospecting tactics. I have heard it said countless times that “cold-calling is dead”. And it may be so, as the long-term strategy. But for the fastest results, prospecting is very much alive and necessary. There are online tools available to make it efficient e.g. Linkedin Sales Navigator etc. And there are a number of great books on this topic, such as this Predictable Prospecting, by M.Tyler and J.Donovan.
Must be noted though, that in the USA channel partners and sales consultants typically expect leads to come from marketing activities. They do NOT like prospecting! So if you are attempting the US market entry and are not generating qualified leads already, it requires you to first find that special rare person or team in the US who is interested and excited in prospecting new business without warm leads.
When hiring such local consultant or BD rep, you should expect to pay a monthly retainer fee and royalty from sales. With high-tech B2B solutions, it's practically impossible to find any experiences business person in the US who would work for you to do prospecting with royalty fees only.
A very good saying in sales is: planning is cheap, execution is expensive. That also applies to prospecting. With no planning , your new US BD rep will act as a blind chicken trying to find the grain. And while eventually it will find some grain, for faster and better results it is absolutely necessary to do some careful planning first, to shorten the sales cycle and help the local BD rep to succeed.
During the planning phase, among other things, the most important steps are:
Eventually, through your prospecting work, with a great value prop, with some smart planning, well-defined targets and after hard work, you will find your early adopters and first success stories. The emphasis here is on “hard work”, as per industry statistics, typical B2B prospecting program will only yield 5% response rate from the outreach (vs. 14% closing rate for inbound leads).
But wait. Even if you do all your prospecting planning and execution by-the-book, you can still fail in finding customers. This is how: When you reach out to a person you do not know, and offer him a new solution to his problem, what is the first thing he will do after your call/email? He will thank you for your information, yes, and immediately after that, he will Google your company, browse through your website, and compare your business to competitors. Or, if you claim you are creating a new category so that there are “no direct competitors” (yeah), the prospective buyer will look at your website and decide if your business profile and value proposition is meeting his industry’s credibility standard. And there, if your website looks mediocre, or don't have any interesting or convincing content, you just lost a deal - without even yet knowing it.
The good news is that you can avoid this problem. You do that by creating a well-designed, awesome website with great user interface and attractive content, including white papers, blogs, videos, infographics and great visuals. And “awesome”, not in terms of what you yourself may think, but awesome as compared to any other similar U.S. company in your market. You can also improve your odds immensely by having a virtual U.S. address and telephone number on your website. It will cost you only $100 per month. Then, after your cold call or email, when the prospect checks you out online, he may get excited and call back, and there - the dialogue begins.
Takehill guidance: for US market entry, well-planned systematic prospecting work is often required to get the first customers and success stories off the ground. But it will only work if your website looks the part, in the context of your target U.S. market.
Antti Korhonen is the Founder of Takehill Partners LLC, a Boston based consulting firm. He has helped several European companies entering the US market, and as CEO has built two successful B2B Technology companies with global operations between Silicon Valley, Washington DC, Boston and Helsinki. He lives in Concord, MA, and after spending 12 years in USA he is a dual citizen of USA and Finland.