When it comes to international expansion, outbound sales is the quickest way to generate pipeline and revenue
In this episode of B2B Revenue Acceleration, our host Aurelien Mottier chats with Alfie Marsh, Head of US Sales at Spendesk, about international expansion and outbound sales.
When Alfie joined Spendesk about 3 years ago, there were about 20 employees. Now there are 220 — and it’s been growing about 300% every year. “It’s been a pretty exciting journey,” he said.
Spendesk helps companies make better payments in the workplace, as well as empowers employees to securely spend money. Born in Paris, Spendesk is now international, which gives Alfie a good viewpoint on our first podcast topic today: international expansion.
The SDR role in international expansion
Outbound sales is a valuable instrument for pipeline generation, especially when it comes to expanding into new markets, including international ones.
“The SDR is a 100% critical part of the process as part of any go to market,” Alfie said.
For a variety of reasons, SDRs are arguably the most critical for outbound sales.
1.Outbound SDRs are targeted
Think about fishing and spear hunting.
Fishing is like marketing, where you cast the net out for a bunch of fish, or leads. The SDR has to go through the leads to figure out which ones are appropriate.
On the other hand, spear hunting is like an outbound SDR, who has a predefined target, an ideal customer profile, and a particular segment. They hunt down that game, until they can get an opportunity.
This is important in the process of GTM — during customer discovery, you start with hypotheses and assumptions that you’re looking to validate. (For example, “Our product will work differently in the US vs. Europe because of market nuances.”) You need to take this hypothesis and validate it.
If you’re using inbound leads, this validation is hard to achieve because you have less control over the companies you’re going after.
“The SDR function is the lifeblood of any go-to market because it allows you to be agile, flexible, and very specific in your targeting,” Alfie said.
2.Outbound SDRs are tactical
An SDR or BDR will be the eyes and ears of your company in the market. They’ll have a visceral response from prospects and clients on the phone.
“Cold calling as a channel is great, because you can get these responses in real time and really understand what that fit is,” Alfie said.
Tactical information can help you pivot:
- Your product (iterate to Product-market fit)
- Your segment (who you are going after)
- Your positioning (how you sell your services)
Or for sales, you can tweak the terms of how you explain or pitch your value proposition as a function of your sales team.
Which can get you into a product-market fit, especially in a new market where your product or service has never existed before and people aren’t very knowledgeable about your solution.
“An SDR is the perfect way for you to get that real-time feedback and see what works and what doesn’t,” Alfie said.
The changing relevance of SDR’s
It’s important to say first that the SDR is there to help connect your company and create meaningful conversations with potential buyers. That fundamentally doesn’t change regardless of the size or the stage of your company.
Contexts change, however, and the way you’re operating differs.
At the beginning of your journey — like that of Spendesk in international markets — you have to validate a lot of assumptions. “You’re building the plane whilst you’re flying it,” Alfie explained.
Here, the mentality of an SDR needs to be highly flexible. They can’t assume that the process works immediately.
On a different scale or in a setting where the value proposition is fully known, the SDR’s role is more a matter of execution. Why? The process itself is more validated.
Think about mentality when you’re hiring: How much ownership will the SDRs have over the construction, the process, the vision?
If they want a lot, new markets are the way to go. If not, they’ll appreciate an org with a validated repeatable process.
The challenge of international markets
We all know how difficult it can be, particularly for startups coming from Europe.
One way to overcome them is to know what the problems are. “Many of the problems that you face become much easier when you’re aware that you’re in the problem. It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane,” Alfie said; it’s hard to see what’s going on whilst it’s happening.
Move past your frustrations and sense of constantly failing by understanding that failures help you fulfill your goal of validating your hypothesis about product-market fit.
“When you shift that mentality, it makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. You can also iterate quicker, because it means that you won’t continue trying to go down one route that doesn’t work,” he pointed out.
People and companies don’t buy software the same way — culturally. That needs to affect your approach.
The US has a huge emphasis on storytelling and how you pitch your vision, whereas storytelling just doesn’t work in the German market, which prefers that you lead with facts.
“There’s always opportunity as long as you see the context that you’re in, and you can pivot and adapt and focus your approach on leveraging that,” Alfie said.
Connect with Alfie on LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to The B2B Revenue Acceleration Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.