The USA thrives on selling – it’s a fundamental part of the American dream, especially if Hollywood is anything to go by (think Jerry Maguire and Jordan Belfort). America is a country full of loyal customers who are willing to support the products they love, and passionate salespeople who provide consumers with what they want, when they want it. There is lots we can learn from our American counterparts here in the UK and if you’re looking to sell stateside, here are a few things you need to be aware of:
For any British company looking to sell to an American business you have to look and act the part. It’s nothing personal – Americans just prefer to buy from other Americans. Call it patriotism if you will, but it’s a challenge anyone entering this market has to overcome. When we decided to enter the American market at sales-i, this was one of our biggest hurdles. As a result, we began by building our American customer base and learning as much as we could in the process before opening an office in Chicago. It worked, and now we have a sales team of 30 based there.
The sales experience
The sales experience you provide also needs to be tailored to the American market. Where British buyers are open to typically unorthodox sales processes, Americans want a defined experience where they know what to expect next. The sales cycle is generally a lot shorter in across the pond too, and Americans are far more honest with sharing their thoughts about a deal – if it’s not to their taste, they’ll say “No” from the start.
The sales environment
Because of the sheer scale of the country, American salespeople have had to get used to distance selling – whether that’s on the phone or via Skype. And since sellers are used to performing this way, American buyers are comfortable doing deals despite never meeting face-to-face. Distance selling can put off a lot of British salespeople, who use relationship building in-person as one of their key selling tools, but to succeed in the American market you must accept that personal interaction with customers just isn’t feasible most of the time.
Likewise the geographical distance between salespeople and their opportunities means that Americans are far more receptive to the use of sales technology. From conferencing software to sales management tools, America has pioneered and embraced the use of tech to make business more effective and ensure that distance is never an issue. We’re catching up with sales technology in the UK, but our preference for doing business face-to-face means we’ve still got some way to go in our levels of adoption. As sales become increasingly global, we’ll need to catch up to compete with the USA on this front.
These differences have created two distinct sales cultures. On the one hand, we have an American model in which management systems are more advanced; and on the other a British model that cultivates the growth of strong and personable individual salespeople – both instrumental to success.
In general, buyers in Britain want a good product at the end of the day without too much cold calling and hassle, but selling in America is treated as a local custom that has its own set of rules and etiquette that must be adhered to if you want to succeed. And while there is plenty both sides can learn from each other, it’s important to remember that we also share a lot more than a language where sales is concerned; the process is much the same wherever you’re selling; there are just different ways to close the deal.
By Paul Black, CEO, sales-i