April 30, 2024

When Past Performance Beats Future Potential: Adjusting Your Sales Pitch Across Regions

When it comes to creating effective sales and marketing messages, geography matters. A pitch that works well in one market can fall flat elsewhere.

Here’s an example.

A few years ago, a large tech company (you have definitely heard of) launched a new product aimed at helping sales teams. They first rolled the product out into North America where they honed their messaging and figured out an effective approach to win deals. Essentially, their message was: “this is a new product so your team can be the first to use it and beat your competitors.”

Simple and classic. Invest in our new thing and you will have first-mover advantage.

What happened next happens SO OFTEN! They wrote up their messaging playbook and started replicating the approach into other markets.

But it didn’t work! In Singapore when the local sales teams used the US message, there were crickets. The pipeline was tepid, and deals were slow to close.

What went wrong? In this case, the company assumed that all markets would respond the same way to a single sales pitch.

This is an example where culture matters. The US market is fast, hyper-competitive and has a high willingness to take risks. This product was new and untested, but the potential was big, so the reward outweighed the risk.

That’s not how a market like Singapore works. Do companies in this market take risks? Sure, but not nearly as much as in a place like the US. The calculation is different. The US messaging encouraging prospects to be the first failed in Singapore because in that market, past proofs are often more important than future potential. The risk profile of that region was different. It’s not better or worse, but it is different, and this is why adjusting messaging is so important.

After around six months, the team figured out how they needed to change their approach. The message became, “all of your competitors are using this product, so you don’t want to be left behind.”

This change worked and sales quickly jumped.

How to tell the risk profile of the market you want to sell into?

There are datasets that can help. In cross-cultural psychology, uncertainty avoidance is how cultures differ on the amount of tolerance they have of unpredictability. It’s an ok place to start. HOWEVER, in my experience these data don’t always map to on-the-ground reality. It’s best to work with local experts who understand market conditions and, most importantly, to ASK about how specific messaging may or may not resonate with local audiences.

Understanding audience risk profiles is one area of many to consider when expanding products and services into new markets. Sometimes you want to lead with future potential other times it’s better to lead with past proofs. One thing is certain: when it comes to messaging, localization matters.

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