It’s not just about what you do; the way you do it matters too. This is something that is intrinsic to the work of international sales channel development and management firm for tech companies, Tenego, which helps develop new partners to grow sales across international markets across the world.
In fact, having an understanding of and insight into the very different business cultures and styles in different countries all over the globe the world, is such a crucial element of the success of the Cork-based company that it recently set up its own academy to tutor firms and business people in this very important concept.
Headquartered at NSC Campus in Mahon, Cork, the thriving operation firm has offices spread across Europe and North America.
“Our clients are software product and SaaS solution companies,” says Donagh Kiernan. founder and CEO, Tenego. “We help firms build their international sales channels partner programs and partner networks.”
Client companies are generally early-stage companies and larger, with €5m-per-annum revenues and over.
“We help them identify and bring on board the appropriate partners and create their partner programmes. We help them sell product all over Europe and North America as well as in Latin America and part of Asia.”
The typical challenge, he explains, lies in how a company approaches selling its product in international markets.
Many companies can sell direct to international customers, for example via online — but some companies need to support their customers in the market, and they need to have local relationships to sell.
“It can be very costly to build your own sales team in every market, so it is more efficient, for certain products to sell through partners who are already in a particular market and who would already have relationships with relevant clients.”
However this is not always straightforward, he warns: “There are many subtle details that need to be resolved in order to make this work. Many companies choose the wrong partner, or struggle to identify the appropriate partner — or struggle to make it all work even when they have found partners.
“Our expert team helps companies to not just identify the right kind of partner — we also assist clients in engaging and pitching the partner proposal, to secure their interest and bring these partners on board, enabling the partners to sell their solutions.”
Another big challenge for companies in working through partners is how compelling their proposition is — for both the customer and the partner, Donagh explains.
“One of the biggest factors in terms of success is how well a particular product stands out from the competition, and the noise in the market.
“This also determines the effort a company will need to put in to win new business. When you have a good message, that interests potential customers, it reduces the effort involved in the sale. That’s the challenge on the customer side, and similarly, has an impact on the challenge in securing the partner.
"There are many companies which are big resellers, which can simply pick and choose their solution partners, so the more unique your product is, and the more it stands out, the more attractive it is to a potential partner firm.
Within Tenego, we have our own research, marketing and inside-sales teams as well as business development experts around the world who will lead the conversation with prospective partners.
However, another of the most formidable challenges in international sales is cultural differences.
“This is the biggest challenge, because the way you work in one market will not succeed the same way in another. So it’s all about having people who are experienced in doing business in a particular market — people who will understand the pace of business there, and how business is done,” he says.
That kind of local knowledge is crucial, he emphasises: “A good example is Asia, where the business relationship comes first, and the business itself comes second. In Europe too, the business relationship is very important.
“In the US, you can build fast business relationships, but it takes longer in Europe, and longer again in Asia.
“It’s all very culturally-driven, and it is crucial to understand this and to understand the pace at which you can do business, and the actions that are necessary.
“We have that knowledge, and that is how we can identify the correct partners.”
As part of its range of services for client companies, Tenego has, over the past year, also launched the Tenego Academy, which provides training for businesses starting or growing their partner programmes or for individuals interested in learning “how to build their partner programs and all the essential aspects of making it work,” Donagh explains.
“We have training programmes in place with early customers from Irish companies as well as companies in the United States, Australia, and Europe who are signing up to the academy.
“Everything we have learned about how to build sales channels and about partnering is built into the different programmes, which deal with the many different aspects of this area — and which are aimed at different sized and different types of company.”