Localizing The Salesforce for The Post Pandemic World

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During my 20’s, I built my career and acquired experience and knowledge that would serve me for the rest of my life, serving as a Regional Sales Manager for various companies in various markets. Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Western Europe and South Asia, over a decade or more. It was my choice to shift horizontally, because I wanted to get broader experience, but there were always companies that would be very happy to send an American sales person out to market as an RM.

For the past 20 years or so I have been at the VP Sales level, and I have managed Regional Sales Manager all over the world, and while I value the opportunity that I was given to go to a new market and learn that market, I have never hired or kept in place an RM who isn’t local. In my books, articles and lectures on the subject of growing global sales, I highly discourage companies from the very thing that helped build up my career.

If we are looking to achieve growth and revenue, we need to first look at the sales process as a whole: how will our solution go from factory to end user, what are all the stages of that journey? When we can map that out, we then need to figure out who does what – what part of that sales process belongs to the VP? The RM? The distributor? Various other people in HQ? The primary elements of the sales process that belong to the RM are managing the sale on the ground: building rapport with the end user, managing the local distributor, helping the end user internalize that we solve his problem (which requires an understanding of the cultural methods of internalizing information). While a foreign RM can learn and excel in all of these, he will be starting out with a handicap and a learning curve. A local, experienced sales manager will hit the ground running with significantly less risk.

Over the years, entirely unrelated to my expounding on this issue, many other companies and VPs have been adopting this. With COVID-19’s impact on travel, this trend has been strengthened. Many tools are now in place that make it easier for us to hire and manage sales leaders who are from a different culture, taking away some of the barriers to success.

In the future, it will become harder and harder for people like me to take RM positions around the world, and that might not be a bad thing for the future of international sales.

The Writer
is the Principal of Global Sales Mentor. He has been building and leading sales teams across the world for more than 30 years and has extensive experience in sales leadership in South Asia

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