B2B Sales Options for Overseas Startups Looking to Grow in North America

This blog will focus on some of the options overseas startups have when looking to grow their B2B sales  in North America.  Over the last 16 years we have been very fortunate to have a number of companies from Europe, Asia and South America approach us about helping them grow their North American sales.  In addition, I was also lucky to have worked for a UK based firm many years ago out of their satellite office in Boston so I can attest to the challenges of sales growth in a market that is not your home soil.

Why is it hard you might ask?  Well the answer is simple.  B2B sales is always challenging even on a good day.  You typically have longer sales cycles, higher cost of sales, more sales support required and generally no reference clients at the beginning.   This is then made even more complicated when entering a foreign market as your messaging may need revisions, the buying culture may be different, you have no local clients to reference, compensation needs may not be the same, you do not share the social nuances of the market and so forth.

All of this is challenging for startups in particular because their resource pool is slimmer and there is less margin for error.    

So lets get down to it then.  What are your options for market entry?  

Send an Employee from HQ to Set up the Market

Sending an executive from head office to establish a presence and do sales in a foreign market is another option.  This can make sense if you have a very complex product and a decent amount of resource.  I think the challenge with it is that it can be difficult to find a person who is okay to work in a remote environment and stay self-motivated, understands the entire sales process and has deep content expertise.  The initial foray into a market is challenging and takes a lot of time to build a beachhead.  Not everyone is used to this.


  • They understand the corporate culture
  • Deep product or service knowledge
  • Interested in moving to a new country 


  • No or little market knowledge
  • May not be used to lower support levels 
  • Sales cycles take a lot of time and it can be mentally challenging to stay positive and engaged
  • Can be expensive if you have to pay for housing, flights home, moving and relocation expenses

Hire a Full-Time Employee

This is a good idea and I think particularly when you know what you are selling, who you are selling to, you have vetted the market and are confident in your messaging.  Hitting the ground running with a full-time person is a great way to maximize sales.  The challenge is hiring the right person that can work autonomously, is self-motivated and is creative enough to massage the messaging and sales collateral as needed.  


  • Full-time resource to get things rolling fast
  • Will know the culture of the market and have a better chance at rapport building
  • Maybe able to leverage existing network for some early meetings wins


  • Can be expensive when you figure salary, benefits, travel expenses
  • Sometime hard to manage people from a far and ensure they are being transparent with their work especially if they are not using a sales CRM to capture the prospect and customer data
  • Challenging to find someone that combines the multiple skills of sales strategy, outbound sales (calls, emails, booking meetings) and localized marketing naging  outbound campaigns utilizing a CRM

There is often this misnomer that you can simply hire a local person that has a network of contacts you can sell to and this will be sufficient.  The reality is that in almost all cases, that is all smoke and mirrors.  Even if a person does have a great network, not all their contacts will be suitable prospects and then even less will be in a position to purchase.  On top of that, the buyer will still want to do their due diligence as they have stakeholders to answer to. There is no short circuiting the sales process for long-term success.  You have to put the time in and be persistent and consistent in your efforts.  

Engage with an Outsourced / Fractional or Part-Time B2B sales Representative

This is another option open to you and one that is close to our heart  as it is what we do.  In this scenario, you are paying a third party for assistance on a part-time basis to establish the market for you.  The inherent challenge is like anything else, finding the right organization or firm to use to undertake the work for you.  Some keys are obviously references in this scenario, reviewing success stories they have and the general experience of the team.  The benefit of this option is that you can in some cases draw from the organizations skill set which may include a number of important sales and marketing facets such as ability to do research, utilize a CRM for larger email campaigns, leverage marketing capabilities to build out localized sales material and so forth.  


  • Provides less financial risk versus a salaried employee
  • More flexibility to exit the relationship if not working eg. 30 days notice with no penalty
  • Potentially leverage the larger skill set of the organization – sales and marketing capabilities such as collateral development or social media assistance
  • Get access to seasoned expertise 
  • Start with a few warm networking contacts
  • Localized market knowledge 
  • Cultural understanding of buyers


  • Not a dedicated resource
  • May be one dimensional and not be able to offer more than just basic sales rep services
  • May not be technical in understanding the product
  • Without a sales CRM providing a vehicle for transparency there would be risks of information and contacts not being shared with you
  • Less control from a managerial standpoint

Regardless of your choice an overriding factor in your success will be giving yourself enough runway to make mistakes, learn and stay in the game.  If you do not have adequate resources to get through 12 to 18 months of effort to educate the market and close business then do not start.  In B2B sales, this is the length of time it takes.  Be prepared and go in eyes wide open.  

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B2B Sales Options for Overseas Startups Looking to Grow in North America