As a North American supplier of capital equipment, you are probably familiar with the difficulties of growing your business internationally. A well developed domestic market does not guarantee international success. This blog describes a specific challenge for selling capital equipment in Europe and highlights several options to overcome this.
Capital Equipment Sales in Europe
Today we talk with Bart Leussink, Business Development Manager at the EuroDev Business Development Group, otherwise known as EuroDev. He is responsible for several North American capital equipment manufacturers that target the European market. When asking him about the main challenges he encounters he states; "Europeans are reluctant to make investment decisions without seeing and feeling the system they are buying".
He explains that this is a clear difference between North American and European buying behaviours. In his opinion, buyers in the US are more opportunistic and quicker in their investment decisions. "This can easily lead to misunderstanding the European market potential, at least from a North American perspective". He has seen examples where the North American supplier was able to tick all the boxes (price, quality, lead time), but the European competitor that was able to show the solution, had the advantage.
Bart states that it is essential to show potential buyers what they are buying, not on video or brochures, but in reality. there are multiple ways to showcase solutions. Three possible roads to success can be:
1. Trade shows
Europe is known for the large trade events that are being organized, especially in Germany. This aligns with the statement that buyers need to see and feel the systems before they can decide to buy. Bart tells us that there are some clear advantages and disadvantages with this option; "Showcasing your solutions at trade events is relatively easy to organize and it gives you access to a whole range of potential buyers in a short amount of time". "However, the events are expensive and there are a lot of people that are not relevant to showcase your solutions ". All things considered, trade shows can be, a great option when taking initial steps into Europe and a way to start generating brand awareness and credibility. It also goes hand in hand with other options that are discussed below.
source: IFFA Berlin tradeshow 2019
2. Demo partners
Demonstrating your solution together with a local partner is an interesting option to consider. Bart’s view on this; "It is important to identify a partner that has downstream or upstream capital equipment solutions, and connect your solution with theirs". He also mentions that it can be difficult and time consuming to identify the right partner, but if you are successful, it gives you access to the full customer base of your partner and the local sales force they have in place. This can be a great kick-start to your European sales. Important to consider are legal agreements and protection of intellectual property. Working with the wrong partner may lead to them copying your solutions. It is therefore crucial to settle this in contractual agreements. A practical stepping stone example of this, is the possibility to demonstrate systems under a CARNET, preventing any importation requirements, valid for at least one year.
3. Reference accounts
Another option mentioned by Bart is the usage of reference accounts. This means selling equipment at a discount to strategic accounts. This makes up the foundation of future sales and enables you to showcase the system to potential customers in a real production environment. Bart confirms; "Placing your solution at a customer that has a strong reputation in the market can be an opener for other business". An important consideration is that customers are often not willing to show their production lines to direct competitors. This option can be very difficult to realize if you supply capital equipment to a very specialized segment of an industry.
It seems that there are many options in order to show solutions in real life to potential customers. Bart confirms; "it is important to consider all options and choose an appropriate strategy, taking into account your target market, available budget and long-term business development plans".
EuroDev, established in 1996 with offices in The Netherlands and France, has a single, defined purpose to help mid-sized North American companies expand their business in Europe. We have created a proven, successful business development model and since our founding, have partnered with over 300 companies to help them define and meet their European business goals. Services provided include Sales Outsourcing, HR Outsourcing and Digital Marketing.