What makes ‘selling’ so much harder in the US?

When I begin working with new business leaders in Australia, one of the most frequent questions asked is usually something along the lines of: ‘So, what is actually different about selling in the US?”

On the surface, the question speaks to our innate desire to ‘categorise’ and learn the key ‘rules of engagement’ in America as if it were a shopping list. But the truth is that most people aren’t fully convinced that it will be different. These are, after all, experienced professionals and US culture is so pervasive in Australia, it’s easy to feel like we all know it well.

Having worked in both markets for many years, I can say, however, that there are key differences that often go under-appreciated. Of course, it is difficult to summarise and I’ll be the first to admit I run the risk of over-generalising. Not all of the factors will be true for every company or every market but to succeed internationally, it’s important for Australian businesses to be well-prepared and this is the first step!

It’s been said that selling in the US a unique beast compared to other parts of the world. In fact, I’ve already written about some of the broader differences between doing business in Australia and the US.

But with that in mind, here is more on what makes the US so different to other sales ecosystems.

  1. You face a massive market and stiff competition

The US represents one of the largest and most advanced commercial markets in the world and, as a result, poses some of the best opportunities. But the size and scale of the US is more than just daunting. The fact that a business has gained success in their home market is not necessarily a strong enough validation to succeed in the States.

While a business might have majority market penetration in its own country, we often find that people in the US simply don’t care. This can be true regardless of whether the company has a great product or a strong founder team. The truth is that there are simply so many big fish, lots of them go unnoticed.

There is a much stronger capitalistic mentality in the US and the market may simply be too saturated to pay attention to all of the players. Validation in Australia might not be enough and business leaders have to be open to validating their product or business model locally.

  1. Sales messaging is more direct and personalised

Businesses in the US tend to take a more aggressive and direct approach to selling, with messaging that is more personalised and emotional. Australian businesses need to be more strategic with their sales message to ensure it will cut through the noise, especially in a market filled with hungry sales professionals.

Businesses hoping to gain traction and compete successfully in the US need to be prepared to take their messaging to the next level. In the US, everyone is hustling and often, it seems like everyone is a great sales person. While, of course, there are great sales professionals in Australia, Americans tend to be more trained in direct sales, which works better for that market.

  1. Outreach is aggressive and pervasive

While many Australian businesses understand the importance of sales and marketing functions that are integrated and multi-channel, the US takes this practice to a new level. One of the reasons why is because privacy laws are different in the US and not as restrictive as the GDPR legislation in place around Europe, for example. Instead of looking for an opportunity to get in front of a potential customer, sales in the US is much more targeted. Tactics such as re-targeting, long email automation campaigns, and social media ads across multiple platforms are much more common.

Reception of these tactics can vary greatly between regions, making many international businesses less familiar with them.  In fact, in many places it’s seen as too aggressive – more of a business faux pas. It’s a very forward and direct way of selling that not everyone is comfortable with.

These tips are not meant to frighten Australian businesses away from potentially launching in the US but they are meant to reiterate that you can increase your chance of success when you have the right information at hand and are well-prepared to tackle the challenges that come with expansion.

If you are interested in working with a US-based Interim Business Development expert, register your interest today.