What's Your International Sales Strategy? "Seeding" vs. "Soloing"

Ed Marsh | May 18, 2012

Different Strokes

Jason Davis, a professor in the Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management (TIES) group at MIT's Sloan School and his colleague Christopher Bingham, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School recently released a study based on their research of SMBs from various countries.

In short they found that companies take one of two general approaches to international sales development.  They follow either "seeding" or "soloing" methodologies.international sales on your own or with assistance?

They describe the two methodologies as follows:

"Seeding is when executives observe what other companies have done or seek advice from experienced advisers, and then build on that information through experimentation. Soloing lies at the other end of the spectrum: managers learn about a foreign market through experimentation or improvisation, and then rely on approaches, such as trial and error, over time."

Different Results

The results were interesting.  Companies which followed the "soloing" method tended to start their international sales program faster (they had employees with international experience) and achieved initial sales and "break even" faster. In contrast companies which employed the "seeding" method experienced greater long-term success in their international business development initiative.

Seems counter-intuitive?  I agree.  But the key is probably in "head trash."

Traditional Assumptions

Those employees with some international experience very likely bring a "been there, done that" attitude with them.  Although it helps them launch an export program quickly, it also shuts out many of the industry, company, product, market specific nuances which they would have noted had they not presumed that they already knew it....and those little details make a big difference in international sales growth.

A Hybrid Solution

So the key seems to be to leverage broad expertise and capable business advisors who can help sidestep common, costly errors and simultaneously accumulate the lessons which are specific to a given company/product/market.

That's not an easy skill set to find, and it raises the question whether consultants will help if long-term international sales success is the objective.  They can, if you pick the right model and the right consultant.  Download our free white paper on selecting and export advisor for some tips on doing just that.

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Want to discuss your specific situation and explore whether Consilium Global Business Advisors might be a good fit for your company's international business development initiative?  Contact us.