Build a Global Sales Expansion Strategy That’s Right for Your Business

May 12, 2021
Contributor: Samantha Bonanno

To build a successful global sales strategy and convert more new international sales leads, your business needs to expand into the right markets in the right ways.

So, your business has experienced success at home and you're interested in taking your products or services to the international stage.  

This kind of global sales expansion into new markets and acquiring customers with the same products/services can be a fruitful and exciting endeavor. It can also be a costly gamble for businesses that don't sufficiently research and plan their expansion strategy.

In Gartner’s 3rd Annual Tech CEO Survey 2021*, tech CEOs cited geographic market expansion as the second most pressing strategic initiative to be solved in the next 12 months, but many technology companies struggle to focus on a sustained expansion path. 

To build a successful global sales strategy and convert more new international sales leads, your business needs to expand into the right markets in the right ways. That means identifying solid new market candidates and sustaining expansion over time. 

Let’s take a look at both parts of that formula. 

The right markets: How to evaluate new market candidates

What makes a good expansion market candidate? As your team considers which new markets to pursue, there are some important questions to include in those early conversations. 

Before you look at anything else, comb through your existing customers. Do you already have customers in the locations you're considering? If your business is already making sales and accumulating clients in a particular country, that area should be the first target. 

Existing contacts mean existing client data. This already collected data can help your team begin to understand the unique needs of that locality. 

When narrowing other expansion options, ask the following questions:
  • Does your team understand the market’s buyers (including common questions and pain points)?
  • Does the problem your product solves domestically also exist for customers in these new markets? 
  • Will the demand you’re seeing from other countries justify the efforts of expansion?

Answering these questions will not only help you better understand and prepare for potential hurdles in rollout, but also make a well-rounded case when it's time to pitch expansion markets to your leadership team.

The right ways: How to expand with a global mindset

Don’t be tempted to simply copy and paste local business strategies into your new global sales expansion strategy playbook. You’ll need to build on your current strategy deck, establishing new takes on existing approaches to suit the unique new market you're entering. 

Tara Spence, Senior Manager of Vendor Marketing at Gartner Digital Markets, suggests businesses think of expansion as if they’re starting their business from scratch. 

“Research how your business would function, or how operations will need to adjust, in an entirely different environment. What laws govern business operations in your new market? Who are your local competitors, and how are you going to outsell them? Can you include trusted partners in your supply chain?

Don’t take anything for granted when it comes to expanding to new markets. Just because you know how to do business in one country doesn’t mean you have everything figured out in others.”

Here are three important factors to consider as you build your expansion strategy with a new market in mind: 
 

1. Acclimate to a new culture.

As you prepare to break into a new space, research that market's culture and community. Learn about local traditions and holidays, make sure your sales and marketing teams know how long the average business day lasts, and even when the typical lunch break happens. A thorough understanding of working culture wherever your business expands is crucial, especially when you’re working business to business.

2. Account for a language barrier.

Gartner’s 2021 Global Software Trends survey found that, depending on the country you’re expanding into, translating at least some core content and troubleshooting guides into the local language is a must. Across buyers in 15 countries, respondents in Spain and Mexico assigned the highest importance to training materials and support documentation in their native language. 

3. Be mindful of time zones.

All good sales professionals know that not responding to a lead within the first five minutes of receiving it makes it 10 times less likely that you’ll get in touch with them at all. This can make international sales tricky, if leads are coming in outside of your team’s domestic working hours. Adopting a tool like marketing automation software helps you follow up on inbound opportunities regardless of when they come in. These tools can also help track customer behavior trends (e.g., open rates) in the long term. 

Expand. Adapt. Repeat.

No matter the market, it takes time and experimentation to find the best means of nurturing and closing leads when pursuing global sales expansion.

Get creative. Test various outreach methods and timing to learn what’s successful in that market and what resonates with buyers as you get to know them. Use those findings to guide your team as you build a sustained expansion path. 

For downloadable communication and outreach templates to help you test out communications strategies, check out Gartner Digital Markets' Lead Management Guide. 

Lead Management Guide

Optimize your B2B lead nurture strategy to engage and convert leads more effectively.

Samantha Bonanno

Samantha is a Senior Specialist Analyst for Gartner Digital Markets, where she offers insight and thought leadership on marketing trends and best practices for small and midsize businesses. An Upstate New York native, Sam spends her free time backpacking with her dogs and holding snobby opinions on craft beer and single-origin coffee. Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.

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*Gartner’s 3rd Annual Tech CEO Survey 2021 — Results presented are based on Gartner’s annual survey to stay current on tech CEOs’ most critical priorities to prioritize and steer research for the tech CEO research agenda.

The primary research was conducted online between November and December 2020 among 280 respondents in North America (the U.S. and Canada), Western Europe (Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.), Asia/Pacific (Australia, India, New Zealand and Singapore) and Latin America (Brazil).

Eligible organizations operate in the high-tech industry (i.e., applications/software, cloud, business and technology services, communications services, hardware, IT services, and semiconductors), with anticipated annual revenue for fiscal 2020 of up to $250 million U.S. dollars (USD) or the equivalent, including companies in the prerevenue stage. All organizations focus on businesses and government/nonprofits as their primary customers (including, B2B, B2B2C and B2B2B).

Qualified respondents from these organizations have the title of CEO/managing director, owner or COO/C-level executive of operations, or the equivalent.

The survey was developed collaboratively by a team of Gartner analysts who follow these markets and was reviewed, tested and administered by Gartner’s Research Data and Analytics team.

Disclaimer: Results of this study do not represent “global” findings or the market as a whole, but are a simple average of results for the targeted countries, industries and company-size segments covered in this survey.

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