Small and medium-sized international businesses who want to enter and grow in the USA will need to pass the “Startup Chasm” – the most difficult journey for international companies wanting to enter the USA and achieve success.
I define the Startup Chasm (inspired by Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm theory) by the critical first period you have to go through after evaluating the market and having said GO to entering the USA, but before you have a significant customer base and a steady and ongoing business in the United States. Looking in the rearview mirror the Startup Chasm is easy to recognize and rationalize however looking ahead and into the Chasm, the Chasm most often is appearing as small, insignificant and very temporary. A small hole in the ground that will be easy to surpass.
Most small and medium-sized international enterprises are sadly unaware of the depth of the Startup Chasm and the resource requirements for successfully making it through. This lack of respect and know how of the Startup Chasm is, in my experience the primary reason for international businesses to fail in the US market.
If you want to survive in the US-market, you need to be highly aware of the Startup Chasm, the resources and team work it takes to overcome it and the time before the Chasm is behind you. Most companies that fail in the USA fail for some reason related to being unable to make it through the Startup Chasm.
@KatapultGroup helps technology enabled companies accelerate growth by leveraging technology and relationships. We typically engage very closely with our portfolio firms and take on a role as Interim General Manager & Outsourced Sales Operation for our international clients. As part of selling software we do a lot of web-based demos. We also facilitate a ton!
Demoing your product is one absolutely essential part of selling your software solution to American companies and while they sound easy to do they often are not done in a manner that is up to par with the US-competition. The impact of a badly executed demo is loss of a potential customer, likely a customer you’ve spent a good deal of resources and time to attract and move through your sales funnel. Here are a few of the mistakes we’ve made early on and mistakes we continously see our clients making when doing web-based demos to potential US-customers:
- Not having a proper preparation procedure and thereby wasting the first 15 minutes of the meeting. FAIL!
- Assuming that US-customers have a Skype account. FAIL!
- Using a demo environment that is unstable, of poor quality (lag in screensharing, poor audio, etc), oftentimes driven by the goal of saving money. BIG FAIL!
- Failing to test the demo environment in advance. FAIL!
- Failing to provide US based dial-in phone numbers. FAIL!
- Missing a demo call due to time zone differences. FAIL!
- Speaking too fast for anyone to understand what you are saying…particularly on bad VoIP connnections. FAIL!
- Speaking too much, particularly about all the things that your US-customers don’t care about. FAIL!
- Not asking enough questions. FAIL!
- Not knowing the name of the US-customer and the meeting attendees and blatantly revealing this lack of preparation. FAIL!
- Not showing up prepared. FAIL!
- Showing up late. FAIL!
- Demoing features just to show off instead of honing in on what is important to your US-customer. FAIL!
- Failing to properly introduce yourself. FAIL!
- Not having a proper follow up procedure. FAIL!
- Thinking you’ve got 60 minutes to do the demo when all you’ve really got is 20 minutes. FAIL!
- Showing up with a standard template demo that is not specifically aimed at the requirements of your US-customer. FAIL!
- Spending your time doing a demo when the US-customer should have been disqualified in the sales process. FAIL!…this FAIL belongs to the pre-sales team!
- Not being prepared with relevant information as it relates to customer success stories and benefits of using your solution. FAIL!
- Not being prepared with the most basic support, implementation and general technical questions. FAIL!
- Not being able to articulate what typically happens after the customer buys, i.e. how to implement and train your customer to be able to benefit from your software product. FAIL!
- Letting your technical team do the demo. BIG FAIL!
- Being the only one doing the demo and not having a colleague join you. FAIL, particularly if pitching to Enterprise customers!
There are a ton of mistakes that are made during the demo phase and being aware of how to avoid them is one of the most critical parts of becoming successful with your software product in the USA.