The Challenges Of International Sales


If you are a reading this as an experienced salesperson, you will know as much as anyone that the sales landscape has changed. Gone are the times when a good talker was a good salesperson. Sales has become a strategic process, and buyers are better educated than ever before. They have changed and many sales teams are still playing catch up. Businesses have become more globalised than ever before, with as many as 311,000 UK businesses having some form of international arm, amplifying the challenges over and over. So what can your business do to respond appropriately in this ever evolving international sales climate?

Customisation and Translation

One of the greatest emerging trends in sales is customisation. Buyers will not tolerate ‘one size fits all’, and they shouldn’t have to. International buyers are not willing to go through a whole purchasing decision in a foreign language anymore. They believe salespeople should be doing the work to get their business. Thus, salespeople need to localise at least some of their communication to the country or region of the client. This could be anything from the full translation of sales presentations and brochures to learning a few words of the prospect’s language to demonstrate effort.

Social Selling

Social selling has rocketed over recent years, and is fast becoming one of the most common practices both in B2B and B2C. In international sales it can be one of the easiest and most affordable ways to acquire overseas customers. However, people have a shorter attention span than a goldfish on social media. You have to create interest quickly, and therefore have to speak in their language. Even if your target audience are fluent in your language, they will be working harder to read in a foreign language.

Cross-cultural Impact

We all know different countries have different business customs. For example, in UAE, your left hand is considered unclean, and you must therefore eat and shake hands with the right hand. Alternatively, in China, remember to show up to business meetings with a gift, or it could be your last meeting. The only way you can prepare yourself for this is by proper cultural training. Make sure before you sell to overseas customers you are culturally prepared. Otherwise you may run the risk of burning bridges beyond repair.

Communication Localisation

When it comes to the specific message you are relaying to client or procurement team, you have to make it relevant for them. For example, a certain style of sales message may be impactful in the UK. However, the approach may not work in the same way in other cultures and countries. This gap can be mitigated by working through a process known as localisation, where key reference points are adjusted to resonate appropriately with international buyers in each culture or country. A straightforward example of this is to edit currency in line with the host country. A subtler yet probably more important example that can impact from a sales perspective is fashion brand ASOS.

They exhibit a subtle cultural difference on their UK and US website – even whilst using the same language. In the UK they use the terminology “jumper” versus “sweater” in the USA.

Small differences like this may seem insignificant, but they can have a huge effect on your sales, and they can be easy to miss. When it comes to localising messages you need the full support of a professional in the field.

If you are considering expanding into international markets or are already selling internationally, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]


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