This blog is for technology startups and growing companies who are building services, products and solutions but are selling in the domestic market.
With my close to 2 decades of experience in business development and sales, I can safely vouch that selling to the US is lot less difficult than selling inside India.
I have sold services, products and solutions to both B2B and B2C clients across the US for major technology companies based out of India.
Make in India; Sell to the US
That advantage India has is obvious — in terms of cost of skilled manpower, highly trained and skilled technology professionals who are abreast of latest technology.
So if your product can solve a genuine problem, with the same sales cycle, you can very well pitch to the US customers and make a higher margin.
A sales cycle is the time taken from identifying a lead to actually closing it.
In my experience, sales cycles for B2B services are longer in India vs the US.
The myths about Selling to the US
- You need to have an office in the US
With the global economy and tax breaks available to Indian companies as “software exports”, you can make a killing selling to customers who can pay more for the same product.
If you are a growing company and want to service enterprise level customers or provide high touch point with your US customers, you might want to set up an US office.
Or, if you are in the outsourcing business, where customers would like to do business with a US entity, you might have to set it up an US entity. It’s just like we buy American SaaS products sitting right here in India from companies who don’t have an office in India. E.g. mailchimp, aweber, clickfunnel and many others and we pay in USD.
- They don’t buy from people overseas
American care about soft skills more than your hard skills. Your product better be good and you better understand their instructions and requirements. Americans have taught the world “globalization” and truly follow it.
They buy products from China, services from India, Philippines, Pakistan, costa rica, carribean, Ukraine and from what not countries.
They know this fact for sure, that to remain competitive and profitable, you need to go to places, which can offer better at cheaper prices.
They are truly democratic when it comes to business.
However now and then, some voices erupt asking Americans to protect American jobs because of political reasons.
But never mind it.
- You need to have sales reps with American accent
I started my career selling mobile phone connections, credit cards to Amercian households, then graduated to selling solutions to C-level executives of top American enterprises.
Accent is not at all a factor in your success.
Americans love people who can speak clearly, with confidence, answer their queries and provide them solutions.
Speak correct English and speak slowly.
I can write an entire blog on voice and accent skills required to speak to Americans, just in case you have never interacted with them for business.
A global CTO once heaped praises on me and gave glowing recommendations to my super boss because of the ownership skills I had shown in resolving old pending issues with their account.
And, can’t reiterate enough, that you need to give exceptional quality.
Great quality is a bare minimum requirement, you need to exceed their expectations, by small little things like being highly responsive, great customer service etc.
Now that we have busted some myths, lets see what and how to kick start our US business development campaign.
#1. It’s a land of specialists, so focus on your micro niche
Americans or ffor the matter, most developed countries breed experts and their country doenst expect you to “hide” in your jobs i.e. just be a mediocre guy getting through.
So before your take the plunge, please do rigorous product development, service enhancement building your customer avatar.
- Find out exactly who you are servicing and are a expert in.
For example don’t offer testing services, they can get testers off Upwork!
Build a niche and tell them you are a testing company designed for the HR tech companies.
Go deep and not wide.
Americans love to work who understand their industry, domain and basically walk the talk.
- Message it appropriately
We Indians love to hard wire ourselves, learning the technical stuff and later in our lives struggling with soft skills such as presentation, voice modulation and story telling.
Americans, on the contrary believe in gaining trust in people who know how to deliver the message.
Inspire yourself, love your product and make the customer fall in love with your passion.
The best example are the Hollywood movies—learn how the protagonist in any movie goes through times, when only his or her communication skills convinces someone and gets the job done.
I can think of many movies like Glengary Ross, Boiler Room (youtube them).
- Solve problems, alleviate pain. Don’t be a menu card reader
Most companies when asked what they do, rattle off their services list like a waiter in a restaurant.
What instead you should do is tell what you offer that solves a unique business problem and your customers love you.
“We offer HR technology application testing services, which increases the go to market speed. We basically become your marketing partners and not your tech service provider”
The idea is to build reliability and relatability.
Please remember, you are selling to America, a country who is spoilt for choices.
So if they don’t like you for whatever reasons, they will just walk away and find someone else.
#2. LinkedIn is your best friend
Most startups and growing companies keep whining about lead generation and leads.
As if tons of leads will solve all your woes.
Once you know your micro niche and what services and products, you can offer, LinkedIn will be a cake walk for you.
Going back to my example, find out whose pain area are you solving .e.g the CTO of a HR tech company who needs to ensure no bugs in the apps and improve speed of deploying in the app store.
You have a customer avatar now.
Put the keywords in the LinkedIn search bar and you would get the exact people in your search results that you need to target.
There are tons of blogs out there to do effective Linkedin marketing, hence I am limiting its scope here.
- Be a go giver and not a salesman.
Engage with your potential prospects by giving them something of value — Posts, reports, anecdotes.
However the best thing you can give is flattery—by asking them questions.
Ask how you can improve your product, service, your career etc.
#3. Content Marketing
- Are you reading whats happening in and around your world?
- The best way to make a connection, nurture and strengthen is by sharing relevant content with your leads.
- Don’t reach out to your leads in LinkedIn with a pitch?
- Subscribe, RSS and read to stuff that concerns your industry, domain, sub-domain and geography.
- Share and seek feedback on the content you are sharing.
E.g if you are pitching CTOs of HR tech companies, then a linkedin, twitter, or an email message with a report like “Top 10 trends of 2019 in the HR tech industry” will be the right content to share.
This single piece of content can arouse discussions, point of views and possible collaborations.
The idea should be to build something valuable with your lead vs. just transactional.
Some ideas to share could be blogs by influencers in your industry/domain, reports, anecdotes or simply questions that you believe they can help you answer.
The best form of flattery is advice and when we seek from our leads, it puts them on a pedestal and nice little mentor-mentee relationship is set.
As a startup founder, a very genuine question could be “what new innovations are you seeing in the industry and that you are looking for in your vendors?”
Along with building rapport and relationship, one easy way to establish credibility is creating yoru own content.
Blogs and infographics are the low hanging fruits.
If you have the bandwidth or can outsource some of your content creation part, build extensive reports and quizzes that is relevant and engaging.
Amazing traction can be had with lead magnets like reports, e-books, e-guides which can not only drive traffic but also establish your authority on your domain.
Again, the idea is here to give them something of value, other than a pitch.
#4. The best customer service that you can give
Americans value commitment and integrity over anything.
There are enough examples in industrial and business history to suggest fortune 500 companies wiped away from the list because they just couldn’t live it up in terms of product and service.
Don’t be that company, who can’t deliver or provide exceptional service.
I have turned around billion dollar accounts that was about to slip away from my company just because I went the extra mile, cleaned up legacy issues and basically made myself “available” to my customer.
It didn’t go un-noticed and the CTO of the major billion dollar luxury company called up my boss to appreciate all that I did for them.
We not only got back their revenue for the next 24 months but opened up new avenues with their subsidiary companies.
Good customer service never goes out of style and cant be easily replaced by chat bots.
There is already a geographical and cultural gap, why do we want to aggravate the business relationship with mediocre attention and customer service?
Listen to your customers, do all that you can do to make sure they are getting the best your company has to offer and be seen as a true partner and not a vendor.
Great customer service is good business as well since it builds your intangible assets like testimonials, PR news bytes and referrals.
Its 5 times more difficult to hunt for new customers—so instead give 5X more efforts on your customer service.
# 5. Outreach
No amount of technology can eliminate the face to face, skin to skin business dealings.
More business has been closed at coffee shop discussions and lunches than video conferencing or tele-presence calls.
Even if you are an overseas player, make accommodations to visit your customers at least once a year.
Plan your customer visits either at their locations or at a mutual industry/trade conference.
Your US customers would love doing business with you.
Call and email them with relevant stuff, feed into your CRM if you use one.
Make sure your are visible to your leads and customers equally.
This is the most tricky yet the most critical part of the entire equation.
You can’t just drop your pants down when it comes to pricing because you are India based.
At the same time, you can’t price your services/ products randomly.
- similar products already available there
- your competitors, and
- the feedback if you have initial traction with a select group of leads from the US.
The best way would be to learn along the way.
US customers, set the trend when it comes to pricing models.
Hence don’t be surprised if your customer want share of wallets or outcome based pricing.
Basically, they aren’t concerned with the amount of manpower you deploy at your locations however they are interested in setting up systems that can impact their bottom line directly.
If you don’t have a US selling strategy yet, you should have one like yesterday.
It is a market that is rewarding yet difficult if you don’t have the right attitudes and soft skills in place.
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