International Sales Force and Developing Relationships

Estimated duration: 2hrs


Global sales teams play an important role, and to get the best return from your sales force, you need a strategy that can scale to fit your various target markets as they develop.

It is vitally important to understand that the sales strategy adopted by you on the domestic market may not serve you well when you start looking at foreign markets…one size may not fit all. There may be many similarities but it will be the differences that will, if overlooked, cause you problems.

A Global Sales Strategy

Are your “new “ buyers willing and/or able to do face-to-face meetings as opposed to virtual ones?  Can this new foreign market activity be overseen by a domestically based sales manager or do you require a local representative in each of the foreign markets, or perhaps several in each market depending upon the current and future potential size of that market?

As you evaluate new markets, you may find that the local market and culture of a country may dictate your sales strategy—just because one approach worked in one location, doesn’t necessarily mean it will in others.

Local versus regional

The relevance of understanding the culture of your target markets cannot be overstated when building your international sales strategy and team. This will not only help shape your sales plan in particular locations, but it will also give you awareness on how a particular local market perceives your product. Will more doors open to you if you have a person on the ground than if you try to conduct business and build relationships from your domestic base?  Knowing this will assist when estimating your sales potential and average time taken to close deals, helping you and your finance team with sales forecasts.

Communication practices

It is critical to have the very best of global communication technology on-hand at all times. Your team at home needs to be able to communicate in real time…this communication is a dialogue not just a monologue, it is a two-way thing. Your sales team must be able to access relevant data on an on-going basis.

Measuring success

You have heard the saying-if you cannot measure you cannot manage, but while you do need to have the basic statistics, do not go overboard. Often the non-numeric measures, such as your ability to attract and retain talent, can also be a key indicator of how successful sales teams are doing. Add to this the importance of getting to know people-your channel partners- in the foreign market.

Attracting talent

Attracting talent to a foreign market will be a challenge, not everyone wants to do it. The foreign sales team becomes the front line of your business and is crucial to how the local economy perceives your product and service. Your objective should always be to source individuals that emulate the characteristics of you your company and your product.  Find individuals with the same passion, trustworthiness and drive as you.

Educating the market

Remain mindful that your product, you and your company,  may be an unknown in your new market. Educating the local market is a key obstacle to overcome, so it is important to work closely alongside your sales team to assist with product and brand familiarity and education.

As you enter new markets, consider getting feedback from prospects and key influencers. You can use this information as an indicator of potential success in new markets. This may well come in the form of qualitative rather than quantitative information.

Targets, sales incentive plans and recognition

After sourcing talent and educating your new foreign market(s), the next step on the ladder to success is retaining the talent that you worked so hard to bring in.

First, set obtainable targets. The best management team in the world cannot succeed if the targets set in the foreign market(s) are unrealistic. You will lose talent very fast. An appreciation for what is achievable in the early days is key when setting targets for your new team. Provide time and space to enable the team to adapt to the cultural norms/mores is good advice.

Then, as your global sales teams become more experienced, you can introduce stretch targets to challenge your sales team based on their ability. A sales incentive plan can be a key instrument in providing teams with the necessary encouragement to work toward stretch targets.

Again, implementing a uniform plan across global teams is not necessarily the best approach. Some cultures and regions will view incentives such as additional paid time off, company-sponsored outings or internal promotions just as highly as monetary rewards Those who work hard want to be recognised for their hard work, not have it viewed as the standard of doing business.

Building Relationships with Supply Chain Members

Building a value-added relationship with buyers in a foreign market is no different than doing so on the domestic in certain respects. Of course, there are differences but in essence, it is about getting close, getting to know one another and thus building – over time- respect and trust amongst the parties involved.

It is best to have a coordinated approach. We will now take time to consider what might be done in order to have a meaningful worthwhile foreign market experience. We will do so under the 7 headings:

  1. Resources
  2. Reward
  3. Risk
  4. Relations
  5. Face-Time
  6. Loyalty
  7. Honesty


Place your channels of access to the foreign market at the centre of your universe and organise your resources around them.

An exporter needs to recognise that its channels are a legitimate part of its sales organisation and not an external add-on. Only when you embrace this philosophy will you be able to adequately resource the channel sales support organisation. This includes everyone from materials handling to after-sales service. All parties/staff are to be taken care of.


Know who in the channel is ultimately responsible for sales of your products and identify everyone who is rewarded for selling them.

In every channel partner, you need a champion. He/she is the person who has a vested interest in your products or services succeeding. His/her reward may be monetary or it may come in the form of kudos, peer recognition or the satisfaction of his customers.


Never expect the channel to take a risk with its business that you would not take with your own. Too many exporters expect their channels to take risks – with creditors, inventory, regulations and margins – that they would never take with their own businesses. This is a real acid test of your level of understanding of the buyers business, and can be a route to building a strong bond/relationship.


In the complex, global economy we live in, customers very often trust and rely upon their local suppliers on whom they have depended for many years and who have given them loyal service in good times and bad. Exporters often forget why they engaged the channel in the first place – because it owns these relationships. Continuing to remember that and respecting the channel’s value in the supply chain is vital to building long-lasting relationships.

Face Time

Maximise face time. Get to meet your foreign buyers as often as you can. This shows that you are serious about building a relationship, one that matters to you.  Once every 4 to 5 years is insufficient.  People buy from people first. Get to know the person you are dealing with, have a beer and/or a coffee- you pay!


In a dynamic market, there will always be new products, new incentives to wrestle your foreign buyer away to another supplier. You want/need them to stay with you but why would / should they do so?  Channels are like life partners, you may want them to stay with you but you are aware that there may well be something more attractive around the next corner. Once trust is betrayed, it is very difficult – or impossible – to rebuild. Years of hard work can be undone with a single, bad decision driven by a lack of communication, greed or misunderstanding of a situation. In the final analysis, the relationship is not between companies, but more so between people, and it is therefore built on trust and loyalty.


Be honest and transparent in all your dealings. Do onto others as you would wish them to do to you, and for you. It is never possible to build a lasting business relationship unless there is openness and honesty between the partners. Dealing with a channel conflict openly, with full disclosure, is more likely to strengthen a relationship than to damage it. When something goes wrong or is about to go wrong, once you know this, let all parties to the arrangement know.

Five Step Process for CRM

There are many CRM software packages available, some are identified below. Whichever package you care to use you do need to follow a process in order to get the very most from your efforts. An effective CRM process can make all the difference in terms of success or failure in your chosen market. Let us take a look at this 5-stage process.

Customer portfolio analysis

This first step involves analysis of your organisation’s customer base to determine what groups and kinds of customers are the most profitable. This is difficult when working in your home/domestic setting but made more difficult when operating in a foreign market. This is where a well-chosen partner in the foreign market comes to the fore. Acting on your behalf, and because you have developed a sense of trust with this partner, your capacity to replicate on the foreign market the knowledge that you have of your customers is greatly enhanced

– Customer intimacy

This is where you may gain that all-important competitive advantage. When your competition is busy doing other things, you have spent the time getting to know the customers in your foreign market really, really well. Relationship building is predicated upon how well you know your customer and that includes everything from buying habits to when their birthday is. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to improve customer intimacy and learn more about your target market. This step usually involves building a customer database to store the gathered information, a well chosen agent acting on your behalf will do well here. A solid relationship build-up with an appropriate distributor will do likewise.

– Network development

It is all to do with developing and identifying strong relationships with the network of contacts that will deliver you success in the chosen foreign markets. These relationships will include external partners such as suppliers, agents, distributors and investors, as well as internal partners, such as your employees.

Value proposition development

This step builds on the information gathered while working on customer intimacy. Once you have identified your target customer, you can move forward and create a tailored value proposition for this customer. In creating value for your customer, your value proposition must also create value for your organisation.

Customer life cycle management

The customer life cycle refers to the ideal customer journey: from potential client to product/service advocate. It also relates to the continuing relationship you maintain with your customer. Managing this cycle requires structure and attention to process. This is a difficult enough activity on your domestic market, made all the more problematic when dealing with a foreign market, with its cultural, language business norms adding layers of difficulty. This is where a well-chosen partner, with whom you have built a solid relationship really begins to show rewards.

CRM Software Packages

Here are some of the better-known CRM software packages available.

Here are some of the better known CRM software packages available.

Hubspot CRMSalesforce CRMFreshsales
Pipedrivebpm’online CRMZoho CRM
LucrativZengine by WizeHivevCita CRM
Really Simple SystemseWay-CRMSalpo CRM


Spend some time (up to 60 minutes) on this task.

Taking all the material of this module- International SalesForce and Developing Relationships, prepare a SalesForce and Relationship strategy for your company/business venture.