What advice should I give to a Spanish IT services company about selling to US customers?
The company is hoping to sell their services to US companies and has no track record established here yet. I am trying to help them to set their priorities and focus on the actions that will most likely help them to be successful.
Their absolute #1 priority should be to show the new market what they offer, how well they did in Spain and why their services would be better. More than anything else a customer wants to know they will be getting value for money and this message has to be understood by these would-be clients explicitly.
Jon, given that Spanish is the fastest growing spoken first language in the US, soon to overtake English, then this is probably a very good time for a Spanish company to look to the US, especially if they can also demonstrate solid english language skills. These points are important as whilst they will not solely determine if a sales campaign is successful, or not, they will negate several potential "objections" to a sale.
Next, I would ask them to think about how they are going to provide support - they are several thousand miles away and between 5 - 7 hours ahead in time. Do they have the organisation, resources and capability to provide support? Again, this is a key objection area to winning business that they need to overcome.
So having got language and support out of the way, can we now focus on WHAT the offering is. IT Services is a wide ranging topic covering managed / hosted services, applications development, applications management, security, remote operations, etc. Without knowing more it is hard to advise.
Generally, at this point I would ask them to look at why the customers they have, in any geography, have bought from them. If it is solely on price then at best you have a short projected life span - there will always be someone new who enters and is cheaper than the last cheap guy - so cheapest is not a good strategy.
What sector are they aiming for - utilities? Retail? Financial Services? etc. Why are they aiming for that sector. Do they have existing products / services / and experience? If so, how good is their collateral and do they have referenceable customer case studies and customers who are willing (in English and Spanish) to take reference calls? In short, make sure that they have a rifle focus on the segment of the market that they are going to shoot for in the US. They need to understand who their competitors are, what their strengths are, where their weaknesses are, and then fight to counter the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the opposition.
In summary, they need a focused plan of execution, good market research, a clear understanding of where they will play and fit in the ecosystem, and as many of the potential objections "handled" or responses worked out as possible - this will give confidence to prospects that they can deliver.
I hope this helps Jon - feel free to PM or ask me anything if you feel it would help.
Due to the nature of our company (an IT training company) and that 80% of our clientele are government, we are required to only work with USA based companies. I do want you to be aware that winning government contracts might be outside of their scope since they place such strict requirements. I personally would tell them to focus on companies in the US which also office in Spanish speaking areas.
The other issue that needs to be addressed is WHICH Spanish language do they speak since they vary by country? This case needs to be examined when looking to focus on USA based with operations in THAT Spanish language location.
What country is the business based in? If it is US based, then you just follow the US law.
If the company is based overseas, first retain an attorney here in the US to work with foreign legal counsel. Laws governing foreign (or alien based) companies doing business in the US can be hard to negotiate.
If this company wants to gain US customers, the best place to look is in a book called Companies in the US and start canvasing, go to conventions and conferences and network.
The questions begs a better explanation of what kind of IT services do they have to offer? What is their unique value proposition vis-a-vis other firms that offer similar services? Have they ever been here? Do they speak English? The questions are limitless the way the question has been posed.
It is necessary for the IT Firm to give their US customers a trial service or assistance to enable them lunch their services to their would be client. This will enable the firm to see, test and make use of their available services.
The benefits of this is that it will enable the IT firm to have a preliminary contact which will serve as a base for further discussions among others. Also, it afford the IT Firm an opportunity to understudy the requisite needs of their customer which will enable them to develop products and services tailored to meet those basic needs. In addition, it will also afford the IT firm an opportunity to discover customers' preferences in the US environment because taste and preferences differ from one region to another, therefore, without a pilot testing of their products and services, it is possible for the IT Firm to design and develop products and services in Spain that will not be environmentally friendly in the US or that do not meet up with the customers' specifications.
In addition, if the It firm feels Pilot testing is exorbitant because of cost of design and implementation, then, the IT Firm needs to make a scheduled visit to their proposed customer in the US to enable them discuss the products and services required from the It Firm. This will enhance trust, transparency and unity of purpose as both parties would be able to streamline all the gray areas and come up with something acceptable by them. This approach will foster synergy and cooperation between the firms.
Whatever they do don't compete on being cheapest!!
What's their reason to address the US? It sounds futile to me. Is their own market so fully penetrated that they need to go as far away as the US? I would think that unless they're native speakers of US English, they'll have an incredibly tough time getting into the US...
US is probably the biggest market for service industry . IT services is a broad term to understand , but assuming that your service is either catering to enterprise or retail the strategy can be opted . For retail business I would suggest start with Email marketing and affiliates at US . If targeting Enterprises directly I feel a Business development team is much needed at US . To start with you probably have to show a lot of freebies . However the entire strategy should be as per your service and target group .
Depends on what exactly their niche is, but they're going to have to crack both ends of the sale:
a. defining a clear value proposition and differentiation
b. addressing likely concerns, mostly about getting effective support from someone who is a long way away - and likely speaks a different language.
price and links/references to their past work will help a lot.
The most important thing I would think is to be price competitive versus US IT as they are having to deal with off shore and what is the incentive otherwise for the same services I would work up a sheet of services and times needed with the costing
I suggest you point out their past successes. Testimonials also help a lot.
A potential customer is going to be most concerned with the reputation / credibility / track record of any company they deal with and would look for relevant citations in the US market (Gartner, appropriate trade magazine etc). If the company is differentiating on price then this will be less important, as long as they can demonstrate capability in their local market and they have a strong support / maintenance model that will not inconvenience the US timezone and holiday calendars.
IT is quite a broad spectrum. Do they offer custom programming, comsulting, integration services, own software solutions? It will all define how you should approach any market, not just US.
There are current references, product list, certification list, company history, referrals, ... tons of stuff you can use in your favour.