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Sell one thing: Where EU companies go wrong entering the US marketplace

By Mike Kerans, founder

April 19, 2016 | 3 min read

A common mistake we see EU companies make in the US is trying to sell a full suite of products as a first step. This is an important and counter intuitive difference between working in the US vs. Europe.

While of course there are exceptions, it tends to work better to focus on a single pain point you solve and get a test started rather than attempting to sell the suite in advance. Decision makers who evaluate technology would prefer to get to know a prospective partner on a low-risk project first. Once you are engaged with the client, you have the opportunity to upsell into the full suite.

In theory, ‘end-to-end’ solutions sound great. Fewer suppliers for the buyer to deal with. A single user interface rather than many in a business that is drowning in them. What’s not to like about selling in a full suite of products and services up front?

However, the US marketplace is more transactional, less socially driven than its European counterpart. People trust less and trust needs to be earned. While it can be an impressive element of your pitch to have a full range of goods and services available, don’t attempt to sell them all upfront. Start with a single problem and solution as a means of getting to know one and other.

Related to this is another common mistake EU firms make. In an effort to sound impressive and try to please the prospect, the EU firm will say at the end of the meeting that they can do “this or that or that…whatever you want”. That freezes a decision. A prospect has to think about it, and they don’t have time to think about it.

The point is to lead the client with a defined offering. You can refine and change that offering, based on ongoing feedback. But make sure to present a defined offering that requires a client to simply say “yes”, and not have to think about how they will use it.

At a restaurant, a chef does not describe the ingredients in the kitchen and ask you to come up with a dish. You would be there all night. The idea is to be like popular Parisian restaurant, Le Relais de l’Entrecote, where the only decision the customer makes is how they want their steak cooked. You want to reduce choices, not increase them.

Michael Kerans is founder of C.R.O. Partners

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