We held a webinar on how to expand your business to Sweden - with a focus on Finnish companies planning to enter the market. Due to the abundance of questions from our 100+ attendees, we were unable to answer them all during the session. Instead, we've answered some of the top questions along with the unanswered ones below, in a Top10 Q&A list.
1. Do you need a Swede to sell in Sweden or is a native "Finnjävel" ok?
It's not about nationality, but actual sales skills. We have both Swedish and Finnish people in our team in Stockholm and they all do a great job with customers. If we look at the top 4 individual sales performances, it’s 50/50 between Swedes and Finns.
2. Should meetings be held in English or Swedish? How about the language of your material and content?
We've seen a slightly higher hit rate and conversion rate with Swedish. However, most people are fluent in English as well, so it does work. Material and content will be translated from Finnish anyways, so for a stronger local presence in Sweden we recommend you use Swedish.
3. Is it easier to do business in Sweden with a company registered there? Did Vainu register a subsidiary in Sweden when entering the market? Does the lack of a Swedish business id and contact information (Swedish office/telephone number) on the website create lack of legitimacy for prospects?
For the first three months, we sold to Sweden remotely from Finland without having a local business entity registered in Sweden. Once we had acquired the first 10 customers, we decided to open up an office and set up a local subsidiary fully owned by our Finnish company. Not having a Swedish organization naturally adds uncertainty with some prospects, so it’s good to have a plan in place to set up a local company as soon as possible.
4. How do the sales metrics (number of phone calls and emails) compare to those in Finland? Is it more difficult to book a meeting by phone in Sweden than in Finland?
In general, getting a hold of people and booking meetings over the phone is relatively easy in all the Nordic markets. If you use a data-driven approach and try to make sure you reach out to prospects at the best possible time, you can boost your numbers up a lot. Based on our own data, you need to do 50-100 % more phone calls / emails per meeting in Sweden, but the numbers are still very low compared to the UK or the US, for example.
5. If you have to call twice the amount of prospects to get a meeting in Sweden compared to Finland, what is the upside of that? Bigger deals? Longer customer relationships? What?
The Swedish market is twice the size of Finnish market. Once you've found your sweet spot, it's easier to scale your business in Sweden, because there are more companies in almost all segments. We have also noticed that a lot of our customers make their Nordic decisions in Sweden, so the probability to close international deals can be higher.
6. What were the practical steps in taking over the Swedish market in order? What would you do differently now?
This is how we did it:
- Analyzed Swedish companies based on our ideal customer profile, which was based on our existing customers in Finland.
- Put all the sales and marketing efforts into these segments, where we knew our service creates lot of value.
- Started booking sales meetings remotely from Finland, conducted a lot of web demos and collected unfiltered feedback from potential customers.
- After signing the first 10 customers, three Finnish people moved to Stockholm and opened up the office and started hiring local people.
When looking back at the 15 months after our market entry, it is obvious that we could have scaled our operations even faster when it comes to recruiting local people and building up the sales and customer success teams in Sweden. We are 16 people now, but we could be 25 if we had started growing earlier.
7. What has been the biggest challenge so far when looking back at the first year in Sweden as well as when planning the market entry?
In Sweden, there are often more people involved in the decision making process. It took us some time to figure out the best way to facilitate the sales process when there are multiple stakeholders involved.
8. What were the first hires? Sales people or business development people? When did you hire marketeers? What were the "9 mentioned sources" for recruiting the first 16 employees?
Our first hires in new countries are always sales people, who then form the "founding team". After 50-100 clients, we established customer success team. Our 6th hire was the first full-time marketeer.
We've found our people through LinkedIn, our own networks, job fairs, startup events, referrals and many other career sites where we placed our job ads. In some countries we also use staffing agencies who focus on finding strong sales professionals.
9. What are the steps in order to find the right partners in Sweden?
Map out your short list of potential partners by using a smart company database such as Vainu. After that, our recommendation is to pick up the phone and set up meetings with them. The best way to understand a new market is to meet as many potential customers and partners as possible.
10. What do you think is the biggest cultural difference between Finland and Sweden?
Business culture is very similar in both countries. As mentioned above, the decision making process seems to be slightly different, but smart sales organizations can adapt to it very quickly.