[Podcast] Don’t Miss Those Buying Signals From International Customers

I’ve been working with the Finnish company HappyOrNot for the past 6 years on inbound sales, maybe you read my blog “Inside Sales Know-How To Convert Your International Leads From A Distance”.

Since I wrote that in January 2020, the world has changed somewhat, but I experienced a couple of frustrating situations recently that made me reflect on my HappyOrNot work. Situations in which I was trying to buy services and the company was completely ignoring my buying signals. When I say signals, this was more light like a huge beacon accompanied by a siren, read on and you’ll see what I mean.

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The International Business from Finland theme music was devised and created by Dodobones www.dodobones.co.uk


Working With HappyOrNot

As I explained in that earlier article, my work with HappyOrNot involves a degree of prospecting, but is primarily focused on inside sales; following-up on inbound leads through the HappyOrNot website, progressing them through the sales funnel and converting them to customers. To achieve this, I use a combination of phone calls, email and LinkedIn.

There is a variety of ‘readiness’ among these leads. Some are just collecting information to pass on to their company’s management team, others are the decision-maker for a small company and others are contacts from a trade show or exhibition, who were positive at the event, but are not yet ready to commit.


Identifying the Buying Signals

You can never be completely sure of getting the order until it actually arrives. For example, I had one situation where I had a video call with the company owner and he was interested, I sent a specific quote for his requirements and he accepted it. The final step was to get a purchase order (PO) from his buying department. At the very last minute, the buyer told me that the owner had a problem with the pricing and wanted a discount. That order was never completed!

Then another occasion, I had a long phone call with someone, who was interested in the service but wasn’t the decision-maker. After a few months, she emailed me asking a few more, detailed questions – which I answered – then silence again. After a few more months, she emailed me with a PO number asking when the delivery of five HappyOrNot terminals could be made. That’s a very decent order for my company.

Let’s think about that in the context of the title of this article “Look Out For The Buying Signals”. In the first case, it seemed clear that the order would come and then imaginary obstacles were put in the way in some really half-baked attempt to negotiate a better price. In the second example, there were no real buying signals but I’d responded to all the enquiries and the end result was a good order.


Trying to Buy Web Hosting Services Online

As I mentioned before, I had two experiences recently that I want to share. Naturally, I will keep it anonymous as I’m not here to name and shame anyone. Firstly, I was looking for a web hosting company for the new website for WIISE (Work Integration for Immigrants Service). A work friend recommended a company, so I sent an enquiry. All of the following happened within one hour on 26.8.2020:

15:03 from Mark Wiltshear

Hello,

I am a Brit living in Seinäjoki. I’m planning a new business venture and want to build our website on WordPress.org. There is a little info about this already on my personal website https://markwiltshear.com/wiise/

[COMPANY] has been recommended to me for the hosting service but this aspect is new to me. Is there someone that I can speak to about our ideas and how we could work with [COMPANY]?

Kind regards,

15:05 from Company Sales (Automated response)

Hello Mark Wiltshear,

Thank you for your message! Someone from our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you!

15:47 from Company CEO

Hello!

You can read about our service at [WEBSITE]

The plans are listed at [WEBSITE] – based on your situation I would recommend you place an order for the PRO plan, which is XX €/month.

Links to our knowledge base and developer documentation can be found via [WEBSITE]

If you need more help, you can call our customer support on [PHONE NUMBER]

Thanks!

Several aspects of this annoyed me:

  1. They did not take time to ask me about my plans, they just assumed I needed a smaller plan. I KNEW I probably needed more than that, but they didn’t because they didn’t ask.
  2. I was asking for help. I clearly said using a web hosting company was new to me and I wanted to speak with someone.
  3. They directed me to their website for information. Precisely the place I had been to when I contacted them using an email address I found on their website.

In the email signature, the CEO had a customer satisfaction question: How would you rate my reply? Great. Okay. Not Good. I made sure to give some detailed feedback – as I work with HappyOrNot, I’ve become quite happy to share my opinions on the service I receive.


Ordering Web Shop Banking Services

I mentioned before that the WIISE website will have a simple webshop. Our bank has a service to accept online payments through our webshop. My contact at the bank said that she had passed on our contact details, to their subsidiary company, and that we would be contacted. A few weeks later, I was finally ready to install this service but I still hadn’t been contacted.

I went onto their website and completed a contact form. Over the next two days, I received automated messages with links to their price list and to sign-up to their service but, again, no personal contact to answer my questions. So I emailed my contact at the bank who was also not impressed with this service, so she enquired again internally. After four days, I did receive an email in English with very clear instructions.

Since then, the assistance and support have been very good but, again, the initial response to my clear buying signals and request for help were only answered after a third party got involved on my behalf.


Cultural Differences?

Is this cultural? Do Finnish companies believe that having information on the website is enough? Especially if the service offered is delivered online. Maybe. If we expand that, however, and look at Finnish companies looking for international customers, then that may not be enough for those overseas contacts. That is not how we manage the HappyOrNot enquiries that come through the website.

One major difference in the Nordics, is that company owners and directors often have their contact details on their website. Around the world, this is not the norm, many companies only have a switchboard phone number and a website Contact Form. If, however, you are contacted directly by a customer, do watch out for those buying signals and give each enquiry the level of attention and respect it deserves – you never know when it might lead to a surprising order.


If you can relate to these experiences, either from the perspective of a customer or a company, use the button below to let me know. Also reach out of you think my international sales experience could be useful to your business, it would be great to talk thorugh your challenges.


Links

If you want to contact me for advice, with comments or to see how I can help your business, use the button below to reach out:


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