What are some of the pitfalls that go along with selling your product overseas?

Let me just throw out a few thoughts in SaaS.  Because even if you do nothing, unless your product has some sort of regulatory or other limitations … you’ll end up organically getting at least 15% of your revenues from outside of the U.S. without even trying.

So, I think the biggest pitfalls are not investing in that ~15%.  Not nurturing it, growing it, supporting it:

  • Waiting too long to put boots on the ground.  As soon as you have even $100k in U.K. revenue in particular, I’d at least have a head of customer success, and maybe a GM, in London or similar to support those customers.  That can Tube over to visit the customers.  That can show up at events.  That can be your face and presence.
  • Waiting too long to localize your app.  Most folks start off English only and then it becomes a big headache to localize the app in core languages.  This almost always pays off.  Do it as soon as you have any pull in non-English countries.
  • Putting a non-closer in a quota-carrying role running an overseas office.  I see this a lot.   You’re not ready to hire a whole team in another geo.  So you start with a generalist (that’s OK) to sort of manage sales AND customer success AND support AND some marketing.  It’s a suboptimal hack but much better than no one there (see point 1).  But — if you expect a non-closer, a non-sales person … to hold a sales quota … that always fails.

Bottom line — go int’l as early as you can.  At least, if you have a sales-driven business (though really, no matter what).  With people, not just software.

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Published on August 13, 2015

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