Well, in some cases, maybe you can: when a Finnish (or pick any other European country) B2B company has a SaaS solution that requires no training or support, or has a technological breakthrough — a 10x better product that’s unavailable elsewhere — and the company has a leadership team with personal experience in the US business.

But what about a company with a globally competitive, rapidly scalable product, clearly poised to expand into the US market, but not meeting these criteria?

When a Finnish salesperson reaches out, the first question on a US enterprise buyer’s mind is whether this company has an office or customers in the US. If the answer is no, the conversation might be enthusiastic and positive in typical American fashion, but the conversation will politely end there. The next five follow-up emails won’t change much – unless the product is that of a 10x better solution.

Without a presence in the US, a Finnish company is seen as an interesting fact and curious topic, but not necessarily a selling point. Although we Finns are proud of our top-tier technology expertise, this message has rarely reached the desk of a business executive in Arizona. Finland? It’s a potential risk. Buyers don’t know how Finnish law or business practices work, and generally don’t want to learn. And where and whose door do they knock on if things go wrong? This same thinking applies to both direct US end customers and US resellers and partners.

When a company’s product or service is valued at tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, the situation becomes even more challenging. In such high-stakes purchases, the risk becomes so significant that an American buyer prefers to purchase from their home market – if a good-enough solution exists. This means that a Finnish B2B company leader dreaming of conquering the US won’t get far with just US contacts to call remotely.

With 30 years of US experience, I’ve learned that the #1 principle in the early stages of the US market entry process is building trust – the trust factor. The best way to accelerate the acquisition of the first customers in the US is not to call American customers from Finland, but to hire a bilingual expert in the US who understands both Finnish and US business cultures. This expert can network with prospects and partners, initiating conversations in the US market in a trustworthy manner, and following the local business culture.

However, the salary costs for a full-time American Business Development Manager are typically over $200k annually, plus bonuses, equity etc. And how do you pay for social benefits, healthcare, and pensions without first establishing a US subsidiary? This is an insurmountable, or very expensive, obstacle for early-stage Finnish companies.

This cost challenge can be mitigated by using a US virtual office and a part-time US consultant who acts as the company’s operational US director during the market entry phase. This “US VP” can then approach American customers in American English, using the company’s email and referring to a US sales office. The costs are usually only a third of a full-time resource and can be quickly scaled down if market feedback is not positive.

Is this a guaranteed path to success in the US? Not necessarily. But by following this process, within the first 60–90 days you will learn:

• If your product is competitive in the US,
• If paying customers can be found,
• If a US Product Market Fit is possible,
• What the sales potential looks like as you move towards the scaling phase.

And at this stage, you’ve invested thousands rather than millions in expanding into the US market.

Following this “Lean Market Entry” method, expanding into the US market doesn’t necessarily cost more than expanding into the Swedish market – with the key difference that the market potential in the US is 40 times greater than in Sweden.

Are you ready for the United States? Get in touch, and let’s talk more.