Skip to content

Selling SaaS Internationally: How Much Cultural Knowledge is Needed?

  • 3 min read

How much of this type of knowledge is needed?

Certainly, the more cultural knowledge you have about the country you want to sell into the better. However, not being the ultimate cultural expert of a particular market should not stop you from selling there. After all, a lot of this knowledge will be picked up “on the job”.

Also, keep in mind that at the end of the day, you will always be a foreign seller in that market. We will explain what that means in a second.

Knowledge is power

The more cultural insight you have, the more you will sell in a particular market. You will be able to engage and understand your prospects better, you will work more smoothly with your partners, and you will have a better understanding of what is going on in your engagement in general. Check out our video below with a few specific examples from China, Singapore, and Australia that illustrate this point.

Don’t stop yourself from selling

Acquiring this cultural knowledge should not stop you from expanding into the country where you want to sell though. If there is a great business opportunity/market fit for your product, it would be an absolute waste to delay your selling to get slightly more cultural insight. As already mentioned, a lot of the cultural knowledge will be learnt through working in a particular market anyway. Additionally, a much better idea than delaying your expansion would be to share a bit of your margin with a local partner that can help you sell your product in that country, including guiding you through and coaching you on cultural differences.

You’ll always be the foreign seller

Keep in mind that when selling internationally, you will always be a foreign seller to the prospects in a different country. While knowing as much as possible about the culture of that country will certainly help you, you shouldn’t necessarily try to emulate every cultural behaviour. During my time working in China, I sometimes came across Westerners doing business in China who were trying to be more Chinese than their Chinese prospects. Check out the video below for a funny story on that point. At the end of the day, the Chinese prospects would engage because there is business value for both parties; if they required absolute knowledge of their culture, they would only engage with Chinese companies.

Also, be mindful of potential bias you would be facing as a foreign seller. This might mean you will need to work extra hard to potentially overcome a negative bias that might be already formed against your background. Conversely though, be aware of any positive biases you might be able to leverage. For example, if you’re based in Silicone Valley, you can be perceived as a bit more cutting-edge and on the innovative side, which you could certainly use to your advantage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *