Common mistakes of technology vendors when expanding abroad

If you are looking for ways to succeed internationally, there is plenty advice available to help you in your endeavor.  While it is important to know what you should be doing to position your company for growth, you should also know what mistakes to avoid that can put your business development efforts on the fast track to failure.  Here we look at common mistakes made by technology vendors that limit their opportunities for success.

Lack of commitment

Business development requires patience and relationship nurturing. Results take time, effort and money. Many vendors, for obvious reasons, prefer to focus their effort, energy and budget on existing clients or familiar markets. Minimal effort doesn’t pay; getting new clients takes dedication and commitment. Here are some clients and prospects behaviors we have been witnessing.

Dependence vs. partnership – Local partners helps you get into markets and keep an eye on opportunities. But, partners unless they’re dedicated to you and your products, won’t put the required sustainable efforts to nurture your relationship with customers because they have their own agenda and approach to their market. Success comes when you’re working hand in hand with your partners and you keep control of your business development and sales process by continuously listening to your target market, trying to understand your client’s needs, understanding how they function, what their buying process is, establishing direct relationship with them and positioning yourself and company as their trusted advisors.

Letting your international partners control your market, your brand and your relations will just ensure that if you don’t lose all opportunities, you won’t be aware of half of what’s happening in your market. Support them but don’t let them run the show for you.

Market presence vs. market activity – In a research exercise conducted for one of our partners at wink, we were looking for potential clients for them in North Africa. We asked 82 prospects if they were active in the region. 55% of the respondents (47) answered yes. When asked if they are working on opportunities or existing projects or doing any consistent business development activities, only 10% of these same 47 respondents (5) answered yes – Most vendors consider themselves active in a market when they have a local partner or a resource assigned to that market. Being active is different from being present; Being active is having an ongoing strategy and action plan to generate business and help clients and prospects in your target market. Opportunities do not spring into existence and wait to be recognized; they need to be identified, assessed and nurtured through active, consistent and committed management: Commit or omit!

Lack of focus

Opportunism – Many vendors consider that international business development should be driven by opportunism and the ability and willingness to seize and exploit opportunities at short notice and wider span; they look at new markets through issued RFPs. Many can get excited by receiving a request from a prospect abroad to answer an RFP. When this invitation can represent a good opportunity to get introduced (and usually that’s all it is), the question remains, what are your chances to win?  If you haven’t made the calls, met your clients and partners, helped with the RFP writing and nurtured the relationships to deserve to receive the RFP, you have to be skeptical about your chances of winning it. You have to ask yourself if you are putting your resources and efforts in the right place or should you focus more on real and well-prepared opportunities.

Non-adapted incentive system – Many companies, do not distinguish between sales and business development. When sales executives ask their sales people to look after existing customers and bring in new clients and at the same time tie their bonuses to short term results, you bet that they will always go after existing markets they know and ‘control’. No time for new territories, too long, too risky. What incentive structure do you have? Do you have resources focusing on business development and new clients’ acquisition?

Lack of control

Expenditure vs. opportunity we’ve seen many vendors that focus on sales and leave business development activities without any control. No criteria for engagement or redraw are set. We found many professionals that were trying to get into specific clients for years without any results without any questioning from the top management. Situations like these not only cost a lot of money to companies but make them miss many opportunities elsewhere.

Marketing as usual – Many vendors are only focusing on traditional marketing techniques like anyone else (tradeshows, calls, seminars,..) while today social media strategies and Internet capabilities, beyond blogs and newsletters, can help them better serve their clients, establish themselves as thought leaders in their niches and control their communication impact on their prospects and clients.

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