Small and medium-sized businesses need a strong team to be successful in the European market. Our clients often compete against large multinationals. In dealing with a smaller supplier versus a larger one, it is usually the customer experience that makes the difference. The team’s involvement, the quality of the service they provide, and their responsiveness can either make or break a relationship.
Four key factors that will help you build a successful customer service team for the European market:
- All hands on deck at the HQ
- Choosing the right sales agents
- Know the risks and costs of hiring in Europe
- Creating a winning European sales team
- All Hands on Deck at the HQ
To succeed in Europe, you must involve your entire team. There is no doubt that the European market is important for the business and the opportunities it presents. Many small businesses make the mistake of trying to grow their international sales on their own without involving their team.
Companies that export successfully to Europe have a greater chance of becoming major players in their industry. That makes it more sustainable and makes the business more appealing to investors. However, this is only possible if everybody in your team is involved and not dropping the ball during your journey in expanding the business in Europe.
The question now is, how can you ensure your team is on deck?
Team members’ engagement and motivation
We come across a wide variety of businesses at Exportia. While others are well established in their home markets, they are interested in expanding into the European market. This type of business requires extra care to avoid getting culture shock.
You can involve your team in the expansion process in many ways. First, make sure they are aware of the plan. Next, they have to decide what it means to them individually. As you develop in Europe, you provide more opportunities for your team.
Providing support to customers
Your sales representative in Europe should handle any enquiries coming from Europe. After that, your sales representative should contact them quickly to qualify the lead and keep track of it. You cannot afford to let these enquiries go cold as a small business.
Taking care of your European customers like royalty is so important. Maintaining long-term customers and growing your business with them is possible with excellent customer support.
Providing technical support to your customers
As your business expands across Europe, you may not have a local technical team at first. To make sure European technical enquiries do not go unanswered, you will need to set up a system for your technical team. There are several ways to help minimise their technical difficulties. Here are a few examples:
- Set up an FAQ on your website.
- Build an online enquiry form for any technical issues.
- Let your distributor be your first technical support team.
Keeping field information for research and development
Your home market’s requirements may differ greatly from those of the European market. Listen to your customer’s requests or feedback and see what your product needs to improve. It could open up some business opportunities for you.
Smart and agile R&D teams can innovatively solve product problems. By participating in major European trade shows, R&D teams can gain insight into the European market. They will gain a better understanding of your competition.
Choosing the Right Sales Agents
Unlike the U.S., sales agents are not common in Europe. Nevertheless, in Europe, many industries employ sales agents. Sales agents can be a powerful sales tool. Think about having 10 or even 100 people representing your product every day in any region by driving around and carrying your business cards. Moreover, you would only have to pay them a commission.
Now that you know how valuable sales agents are, here are a few ways on how you can find the right one for your business:
Understand what a sales agent does
Sales agents are representatives who run their own businesses. In other words, agents are not your employees. They do their best to promote their business. It means that you cannot expect them to report to you as an employee.
Know the local regulations regarding sales agents
You may need to follow established regulations, rules, and practices to engage and work with sales agents. As an example, there is a standardised contract for hiring an agent. There are certain processes to follow if you need to end a sales contract. Hire a local lawyer for help if you need it.
What are their duties?
Sales agents typically support your distribution network. Their job is to work with your distributors and encourage them to sell more of your product. Keeping them focused on your product is their job. Additionally, they can generate leads for their distributors by visiting end-users. In my opinion, agents who can do that are the best.
What is their method of payment?
Sales agents are compensated on a commission by sales basis. However, there may be other options; you must check what’s workable within local regulations. Their commissions usually range from 5% to 10%, depending on the value of the product they sell.
How do you locate sales agents?
Sales agents are common in some industries, while they don’t exist in others. There are several ways to discover whether a country has good sales agents in your industry:
- My favourite method is to contact my industry colleagues who sell non-competing products.
- You can also ask the distributors you work with. They will be able to recommend excellent agents to you.
What is the selection process for sales agents?
Selecting the right agent is crucial to your success. Trying to force a sales agent to do something that they don’t currently do in their day-to-day job doesn’t work in my experience. If you want to know how they work, you should contact the companies that they currently have contracts with.
What is the best strategy for managing sales agents?
In general, good sales agents are excellent professionals who are independent in their work. They rarely need much management. In the event they don’t work out, you should schedule regular catch-ups and reassess if their business model fits your goals.
Know the risks and costs of hiring in Europe
A very common mistake small businesses make in Europe is hiring too soon. A large company launching in a new country can hire locals right away. They can attract the best talent from the very beginning because of their brand and salary packages. When a small or medium-sized business enters a new market, it faces several hiring challenges.
Let’s look at the usual challenges they face:
There is a low level of voluntary staff turnover in Europe
In Europe, employees tend to change jobs less often than elsewhere. An HR consulting firm, Mercer, estimates that 9% of tech workers in the world are voluntarily leaving their jobs. Generally, European countries are below the global average.
Hiring in Europe involves risks
The clients that we work with recruit during the early stages of their launch in the European market, but at this stage, small businesses do not have the financial backing to take on the risk. To avoid losing your money and wasting your time, here are a few reminders of you:
- Hiring too soon is a bad idea
- Hire until you understand your market
- There’s no reason to assume someone based in the UK can develop the entire European market
- Partner with distributors and channel partners to earn your first million euros in sales, then hire to increase revenue.
Creating a winning European sales team
The real question now is how can you actually create a successful European sales team to help you grow in the European market. You can greatly increase your chances of making your recruitment a success if you have a track record of doing business successfully in the European country where you intend to hire. By knowing what needs to be done to take sales to the next level, you can better guide your sales representatives.
Recruiting European sales teams, for Exportia and my Australian clients, has been an interesting experience for me. It was always best for me to recruit when I had sufficient market knowledge and could make an attractive offer.
So, what are the best attributes of a good sales agent?
- They should be like a hunter who is fearless in picking up the phone or willing to open new opportunities for your business.
- They are flexible in working with small to medium-sized businesses.
- Understand and know how to present technical products well.
- Will follow a sales process like demos or trials, then focuses on the sale.
- They have an excellent reputation and trustworthiness.
If you’re starting from scratch in a market, it may not be easy to find candidates who fit this profile. There are a lot of factors you need to consider, especially for smaller businesses that want to expand in the European market for the first time. Again, if you build your sales first, then you can accomplish this.
Want to know more about how to effectively market your business in the European market? Get your FREE copy of “The 4 Steps to Generate Your First Million Euros in Sales” book here: https://www.exportia.com.au/export-business-europe/