How to Boost Local Sales Velocity

How can “going local” boost your marketing and sales velocity? Imagine if your salesperson walked into a sales opportunity, armed with the following:

  • Word-of-mouth referrals from local companies similar to them (size, industry, title, city)
  • Recent and positive coverage by local media
  • Recent mentions on social media by local influencers
  • Product reviews by companies like them, from their country
  • Testimonials on your local website from admired and recognizable brands in their country
  • Brand messaging that is locally relevant
  • Product positioning that is locally oriented
  • Ability for them to pay in their country’s currency
  • Ability for them to pay using their preferred payment method
  • Account management in their local time zone
  • Support in their local time zone

If you’re reading this from the lens of your home market, you’re probably thinking, “Well of course, we do all that and more. How could we grow otherwise?”

But if you’re reading this from the lens of a salesperson selling into a country outside of your home market, you’re probably thinking, “That would be a dream come true!”

Having a great product to sell can carry local sales teams pretty far, but their job is always harder than that of salespeople in the company’s home market.

Boosting marketing and sales velocity, at the local level, requires a combination of all of these elements. Unfortunately, local sales teams who work for companies based outside their home market rarely get the benefit of a well-conceived strategy that rolls these into a comprehensive package is extremely rare. Instead, they’re often left to fend for themselves.

As a result, these sales reps tend to do more relationship selling. Having a great product to sell can carry local sales teams pretty far, but their job is always harder than that of salespeople in the company’s home market. They must compensate for a lack of local brand awareness, local pricing and packaging, and more.

Top-of-Funnel Growth Alone Won’t Improve Sales Velocity

Most of the marketers I’ve consulted with are truly committed to their companies’ long-term growth and to supporting their counterparts in sales. But for marketers, too often the way to help sales make their number in the short term is to focus on simply “more leads.” After all, if you have a pretty stable lead-to-close rate, more leads in the funnel will no doubt lead to more deals and revenue. It’s often the growth path of least resistance when you’re lobbying for budget, but it means you’re short-changing the long-term marketing and sales velocity your business will need in order to scale.

But if you currently have the “more leads” mentality today, what you might be missing in this equation when it comes to your local markets are two key things:

  1. If you focus on boosting your lead-to-close rate instead, you won’t need to generate as many leads to begin with. For most marketers, this is obvious. Most would probably counter, to say that growing top-line traffic and converting it into leads is their most important focus. Not only will it drive short-term growth and keep Sales happy, but it’s something you can do reliably and repeatably. It’s hard to argue this point, especially when people’s quotas are on the line! But, at the same time…
  2. Putting too much focus on lead generation (at the expense of marketing fundamentals) can damage your brand over time. How many people in that local market came into contact with your brand over time, and decided not to buy? That is a number you need to be equally concerned about, because those may count against you as negative brand impressions. When you’re trying to launch a brand in a new market, it’s very important that you build trust early and often, until the market really believes that you’re a company they can rely on. It’s hard to build up that kind of trust without crossing the majority of the boxes in the list above off your list. But the relationships you’re creating with the people who don’t buy are also very important in these early stages of brand-building in local markets. (Here’s a good article on increasing leads by investing in your brand.)

Short-Term Sales Velocity Versus Long-Term Local Brand Value

Many growth marketers at digital businesses are facing this exact challenge. Their time horizon is focused on monthly or maybe quarterly SLAs, not on driving long-term marketing and sales velocity at the local level. There is lots of pressure to show the conversion rate in the simple form of dollars in, dollars out. We invest this much in paid ads, we get this many $ back in net new revenue. How much do I have to put into the marketing “machine” to get a certain amount out on the other side?

Showing that marketing efforts affect the likelihood of those same leads to convert into customers once they are already in your funnel is quite simply, much harder to prove. It requires a longer-term, country-specific focus and a commitment to the market over many months, and more realistically, years.

But, if you want to succeed in any market, you’ll have to make this investment at some stage. Going too broad is a common mistake. Ironically, this challenge is even more common at digital-native companies — those that already have a business model that is digital and that, by default, enables them to more easily reach the world. Because they can launch a campaign to their entire database and receive traffic and leads from any country on the planet, global is often taken as a “given,” or just part of the leads and revenue they think they will naturally capture.

But your brand awareness in each market is different, and your conversion rates when analyzed by country may already be showing you in the data that you don’t have the trust of the market on your side. It’s difficult to attribute your varying conversion rates by country to just one factor, but brand awareness and local market trust in your brand are likely in the mix.

Prioritize Local Strategies over a Single Global One

It’s better to have a strong local strategy for a smaller number of countries than it is to have a “broad” strategy that you apply to a larger number of countries. You might think you’re getting more reach by targeting more broadly, when in fact, you’ll be limited in your effectiveness, especially as you get deeper into any local market.

If the prospect of building local strategies seems too overwhelming, try it on a small scale, for just one country for now. Then, measure the impact and build a case to do more local targeting.

If you have two similar markets with very similar conversion rates, use this opportunity to do some very minor things to test out local strategies and see how they work. I know, I know — you might think you won’t get approval to run anything major that would truly impact things on a broad scale. So, consider starting small and building up from there, if you need to gather data to make a bigger case for local strategies.

Here are a few quick ideas of simple A/B tests you can do, to spark your thinking:

  • Create an A/B test for the same campaign for a given country. Clone it and swap the “global” testimonial you’re featuring on the landing page with a local one and measure any difference in conversion rates.
  • Create an A/B test on a page for a given country where you feature a prominent review site in your home country. Clone and swap with a review site that is more locally relevant. Measure the difference.
  • Create an A/B test with an email that features an image selected by your global team. Choose an image that looks more locally relevant and measure any difference.

For one SaaS company I consulted with, all we did was hide the “Better Business Bureau” logo, which was way too US-centric, from the French page they were using as a conversion point to a paid plan. They saw huge uplift, immediately, from that one small change that made the page a little less US-centric. It’s amazing how much even small changes (like minor call-to-action tweaks) can help! And in this case, it wasn’t adding or swapping anything that did the trick, but simply removing something that was likely to annoy someone from France, since it didn’t make sense to show it on that page to them in the first place.

These are all small things to test, of course, but if there is strong pushback to your requests for funding local strategies, you might have to start small and build the case for more resources from there. It all adds up!

I hope this helps you on your journey to develop, or even advocate for, more local strategies and understanding of local markets as you work to drive marketing and sales velocity. If you have any questions or thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments below.

Nataly Kelly

Nataly leads localization at HubSpot and has previously held diverse roles in marketing, international operations and strategy, research, product development, and localization. She writes for Harvard Business Review on topics of international marketing and business. Nataly grew up in rural Illinois, lived in Ecuador, and resides in Boston (for now).

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