One of the things we preach to our international clients is that the American market is all about dollars and cents. your offering has to have a clear and easy to understand path to the bottom line for it to be successful in being sold in the USA. While this is very much still the case it is worth mentioning that other less tangible elements also can play a role.
Recently, when responding to an RFP for one of our portfolio clients I paused and did a double-take when setting the question:
What sustainability efforts does your company have in place?
I paused simply because I rarely see such question when selling b2b software products and it had been seldom that I’ve found it specified in an RFP.
I am unsure if there is a growing trend amongst the large US firms to demand their vendors be more oriented to sustainability although it might well be the case considering the growing demand with end-users.
No matter, I want to encourage our international clients, particularly our European clientele, to consider making this element more visible in their communications. It’s likely a strong point and certainly will not hurt the chances of winning deals.
What do you think? Are you seeing more companies in the USA demand a higher degree of sustainability?
As an international company wanting to achieve success in the USA it’s a very hard thing to land your first US customer. Typically US based clients do not really care about which customers you have in your home country, if you have no customers in the USA then it does not count. Welcome…
Realizing how hard it is a lot of international firms try to “give it away for free” to get that first customer. The executives and the sales team believe that this significantly will increase the likelyhood of achieving “lift off” and getting customers onboard. The goal then is to use the free customer as a reference to get other clients.
Unfortunately this is not how reality works….free really is not “free” at all when considering the customer’s perspective.
Let’s assume their perspective for a moment and run through a high level calculation:
1. Software product X sold by the international firm – cost: Free
2. Implementations support delivered by international firm – cost: Free at best, more likely billed on a time and materials basis
3. US customer’s time to implement the product – cost: Not free!
4. US customer’s internal change management requirements needed to be able to fully adopt the benefits from software solution – cost: Not free!
5. US customer’s training requirements, i.e. time for training: Not free!
6. US customer’s perceived stress related to “selling” this tool to internal stakeholders: Not free!
7. US customer’s efforts to provide basic first level support for the tool since internal users will want an internal super user – cost: Not free!
8. US customer’s perceived risks of adopting a product from an unknown provider with NO HISTORY IN THE USA, perhaps not even a US presence or any form of IT support group here: Not free!
9. The cost of “change” to all users and the organization: Not free!
10. Costs related to lack of productivity among users adopting your solution: Not free!
11. Costs of having to involve possible high level executives or high paid internal experts to get your solution adopted: Not free!
There is a lot more nuance but the point is: If you sell technology products to other businesses then please keep in mind that any technology solution will come with significant risks and cost to the customers, a cost that may well overshadow the actual cost of your software solution.
The impact to the go to market approach is as such to focus your efforts on mitigating said risk factors while driving down the cost of the full scale implementation (customer’s internal costs as listed above and the cost of your solution).
In short: Invest in strengthening your case for the US market over a strategy of keeping infrastructure the same and “giving it away for free”.
You execute this by understanding what the risks and costs look like for you customers, then finding ways to mitigate/lower them via initiatives such as establishing a US presence, getting US support staff (own or 3rd party such as channel partners), creating documentation for the US market, getting reference cases, etc.