You have built a high-quality product or service, you have strong traction at home and you have learned from numerous strategies when building your business. It should be simple to replicate what you’ve created into the US market, correct? Not so fast. While you won’t start from zero when moving into a new market, it is strategic and vital to re-validate assumptions you make about your existing market at home. The cost of failure — money, human resources, time, focus — is enormous. One of the most common mistakes we see is assuming that what has worked domestically will apply to the US.
To be successful it is not enough to have good technology — you also need to overcome your prospective US customers’ reluctance to buy from non-US firms: risk and politics. This means being hyper focused on target prospects that you can impact more significantly than the local competition — use your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to provide this focus.
Revisiting your existing Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
If your current Ideal Customer Profile hasn’t been updated in more than a quarter, it is worth revisiting before launching your sales plan for the US. Your goal is to identify the customers who get the most value from using your product and who bring the most value to your bottom line: these are your most successful customers. Start by looking at your customers in each vertical or industry, and ask yourself:
- Which customers are likely to remain in our portfolio for the foreseeable future?
- How complex and/or expensive was it to sell to these customers?
- Which customers have the most growth potential?
- Which customers are likely to become strong advocates and provide valuable referrals?
Once you’ve identified a subset of 5 successful customers, look to catalog relevant data-points about each. Then, search for commonalities that will enable you to build a customer profile:
- What is the use case for our technology?
- How do they measure the business impact of using our technology (ROI)?
- How large is their annual revenue?
- What industry are they in?
- Where are they located?
- How many employees do the customers have?
- How large is their deal size?
- What technology tools do they use?
- Which events do they attend?
- How did we acquire them as customers?
- How many people were involved in their decision-making panel and what were their titles?
- What are the titles of the employees we’ve interacted with since?
A well-defined Ideal Customer Profile will benefit you in two primary ways:
- It will ensure your sales team is focusing its efforts on leads with the highest potential to close, by having a benchmark against which new leads can be evaluated and qualified
- It will make it easier for you to ask for high-value referrals from your contacts and current customers
Validating your Ideal Customer Profile in your New Market
Once you have a detailed Ideal Customer Profile, you can proactively seek out the most likely companies that could become prospects. Look for 5 to 20 leads that match the ICP profile in the US. Reach out to those leads and aim for high quality conversations. At this point, the goal is not to close the sale, but rather to gain insights into your new market. Pay close attention to these qualification conversations:
- How well do they match your Ideal Customer Profile?
- What is most likely Use Case for your technology?
- How do they address this business pain currently? How satisfied are they with those solutions?
2. Current needs
- What business pain are they trying to solve?
- How does that pain impact their business?
- How do they measure that impact ($)?
- What results would they like to achieve, on an individual, department and company-basis?
- What are the potential outcomes of those results?
- How will those outcomes impact them, on an individual, department and company-basis?
- Who is your competition?
- Are they considering other vendors or using an in-house solution?
- On which criteria are you being evaluated?
- What is their typical buying process for a product such as yours?
- Which departments are involved in the buying decision?
- How long does their typical buying process take?
- What can complicate/extend their buying timeline?
- When do they plan to buy?
Did you discover significant differences between these US leads and your existing successful customers? Are their pain points similar? Do they describe their problems in the same terms? Is the competitor group you are up against the same as that of your home market, or are there significant local players you haven’t yet faced? How do these leads respond to your solution? What objections do they raise?
Expanding your Sales Funnel in the US
Armed with these answers, you now can revise your sales script, cold email templates, cold call templates and objection management document to communicate value in the most compelling way. In addition, you might discover that your existing Ideal Customer Profile might not translate well into the US market: for example, a regulatory burden might mean that a larger company is better suited for your solution; an industry that is organized differently introduces new purchasing dynamics on your sector; cultural context or labor agreements create disparate pressure points for decision-makers; among many possible other differences.
With your US Ideal Customer Profile in hand, your search for high quality leads will be more effective.
What practices have helped you grow your sales in the US? Please comment below or email us directly — we’re eager to hear from you.
Many thanks to Ian Perry for his insights, expertise and contributions to this piece.