A detailed plan for success
There is probably no more important year in the life of a startup than the first year you start selling to customers outside of your home country, particularly to the U.S. Geographical distance between personnel, time zones, English as the most important language, cultural differences, and increased competition are just a few of the challenges you would need to address. One major difficulty is having to predict an accurate revenue number for the first time half a world away.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing blogs describing each of the tasks represented in the project Gantt chart below. I created this project plan, which I call “Coming to America,” to help young enterprise software companies be better prepared for this critical step and also have a better sense of the time and effort to get to the point of customer acquisition.
The first and most important consideration is that of overall sales cycle length, which is shown towards the bottom. The average enterprise software sale cycle in the U.S. is between nine and 12 months. It is only under very unique circumstances that a large, more than $200,000 transaction can be completed in less than nine months. It is my strong recommendation that you do not base your business strategy on selling to new customers in the U.S. in less than nine months.
Like everywhere in the world, there are times of the year that are more productive than others. Once you understand this, you will be able to better plan your year and forecast revenue. It becomes particularly important when you are trying to forecast just a portion of the year. For example, if you start your year in June, you are missing more then half of the optimal selling time in that year and your commitment to your board and investors should reflect that. Stay tuned for the “U.S. Selling Seasons” article that will be coming out shortly.
As you look over the plan, please note that there are some dependencies. A key one is having your entire team involved in creating the revenue forecast as a tactical plan for sales. It is during this planning process that your team coalesces around the goal and the detailed strategy for achieving it. That includes the salesperson selling, the pre-sales person presenting, the marketing person generating leads, the finance people budgeting the necessary funds: You get the idea, everyone needs to be on the same page. Having this session without the salesperson is like planning a menu at a restaurant without including the cook.
Some of these steps may take less time or resources. However, all of them are necessary to achieve success in the timeframe required. I challenge you to begin selling an enterprise software product in the United States without completing all of these steps. This is why it is so important to plan ahead, knowing your challenges and giving yourself adequate time to get the job done.
Knowing the potential pitfalls and having a plan for them does not guarantee success but certainly will lower your stress levels and ensure the best opportunity to achieve optimal results with the resources you have. I am looking forward to sharing my experience with you on this process and even more so hearing your perspectives as the weeks go by.
The views expressed are of the author.
Geektime invites global tech and startup professionals to share their opinions and expertise with our readers. If you would like to share your point of view, please contact us at [email protected]
Featured Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr