Mission: Identifying the reasons why international expansion had failed
Working for a software and services company that has a strong international presence but had failed to win significant business in Europe despite many international customers with offices across the continent.
We identified a target end-customer, one that had previously purchased our client’s software solution, and delivered it across their UK operation. Though successfully deployed in the UK, it was at odds with the working culture of the customer company and was used with some reluctance in some locations. The lesson here is that you must take everyone with you on a journey to be successful. Whoever you sell to there are people from top to bottom and across the entire width of a company that can make any project a success, or a failure.
We turned our attention to the key target countries. Of these the most difficult to convince was France. This matched with the end-customer who had a large operation in France and was keen to see our client’s solution expanded across Europe, starting with France.
Against a backdrop of bad press, we had representatives from the end-client USA parent, representatives of our client – the UK software and services supplier – and the customer: in a meeting, in Paris; in English. Already the odds were stacked against us and, to be doubly sure, the local end-customer sent a contingent of seven representatives of senior level, all to argue their case and to deny the project. A recent successes for our client in another European country, on a much smaller scale, did not help, the focus was all on the lack of engagement and the resistance to change. To win over France, and therefore other countries, we had to work hard to understand the end-customer needs, their market, their culture and to demonstrate that this solution would make a positive difference in ways that would benefit them locally.
In two months we invested a large amount of time to really understand the needs of the end-customer in France and complexities of French Employment Law. Once we had demonstrated our full understanding of the legal requirements and demonstrated a good cultural understanding of the end-customer locally we now had to coax the end-customer to our client’s way of thinking, without undermining either. On several occasions the end-customer was less than accurate about their interpretation of CDD and CDI and we had to navigate that conversation without upsetting them, on a subject they should know best and in their native language and their country.
Two workshops were held with our client and the end-customer, one also with the customer’s USA parent present. This in addition to the research and detailed process building we had to prepare before each meeting. Overall this was as much about cultural differences as it was local decision makers not wanting a solution imposed upon them. Working with our client helped open the door for more countries to follow.
Knowledge is a very powerful tool and is vital in securing a win. Using it to educate the customer without undermining them when they have an alternative in mind can be a very difficult line to tread.
The end result is the solution was deployed, for this end-customer across multiple European countries and, became a reference customer for our client.