In recent years, international companies have started hiring Country Managers – a job title used by businesses outside English-speaking countries too!

A Country Manager is responsible for business development in a new country or region. They are particularly important for companies that are expanding internationally, as they deal with the launch, development and management of local service/product offerings from production to marketing on distribution networks.

Generally recruited for their understanding of the local area, language and market involved, their goal is to define and introduce the right strategy and make sure their business establishes itself successfully in the region, with the help of frequent competitor analysis. They wear many hats, including those of regional CEO, marketing director, intermediary between the parent company and subsidiary, sales manager and support team – and sometimes a wide range of other headwear too!

To be a good Country Manager, you need to be a strategist, unafraid to get things done, and someone the team can rely on. As a brand ambassador and country representative, you must educate your company about the country’s needs so it can successfully establish itself and brief the teams working on the company’s expansion plan about the needs, priorities, KPIs and reasons behind the applied strategy.

A key factor in a business’ success on a market, a Country Manager should prove the market has potential. This also means bringing in revenue.

In the following article, you can read about the daily lives and challenges faced by four Country Managers:

  • Pierre-Louis Guedon, Country Manager France @GoMore
  • Qui Marin, Country Owner Spain @Cheerz
  • Clément Jouffe, Country Manager France @iZettle
  • Edris Mehrbaz, Sales Manager Netherlands @Livewords

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GoMore: private car hire

You may have heard of GoMore, the Danish business specialising in private car hire. We spoke to Pierre-Louis Guedon, Country Manager France.

As Country Manager, he has clear goals. Through weekly updates with each team member, administrative tasks, numerous meetings and networking, he must bring in revenue’, while pushing team members to do the best they can. You have to be versatile, possess skills in every area (customer care, marketing and sales), and be able to inspire your team”.

Private car hire is a booming sector, especially on the Danish market. Over 100 employees are now working at GoMore across five countries.

In Denmark, GoMore now almost has a monopoly because the market is so young. However, in France, the market is relatively saturated, as it has been around for over 10 years and has new players launching every year. “The Danes are well ahead when it comes to the sharing economy and they are also extremely focused on the environment – much more so than in France. Most French players offer a similar service, with the only differentiating factors being pricing policies, customer service and who has the biggest marketing budget”, says Pierre-Louis Guedon. The two countries also have different adult populations as there are fewer people in Denmark than there are in the Île-de-France region, and this is one of the key differences between the newly established, GoMore Danish market and the French market.

Any tips for selling on the French market?

Pierre-Louis Guedon tells us more about what you should do if you want to sell on the French market, starting with: “It’s important to always keep up with your competition — at least when it comes to technology — and ideally be a little ahead”. You should also be geographically close to your clients: “Although our business is digital, we need to go in person to the cities where we want to set up, to organise live workshops and events. You also need a responsive customer care team”.

For GoMore’s international launch, the Danes decided to gradually open across the country. Pierre-Louis Guedon believes it’s better “to launch in one city at a time by partnering with popular and well-established local players that already have big communities around them, so they can encourage their members to use our services”. In other words, take your time!

GoMore now wants to go a step further and is hoping to provide its services to all French business school campuses, located in towns with a population of 100,000 to 300,000 people.

We wish them every success!

Cheerz: the photo printing specialist

Cheerz is THE ultimate photo printing website. The French start-up was launched in 2012 and has since established a growing and loyal customer following. One factor in this success has been the company’s communication strategy, which has a humorous, human touch. We spoke to Qui Marin, Country Owner Spain, about the business.

There are more than ten people working on the Spanish market at Cheerz. According to Qui Marin, it was important for the company to position itself in this market, as the sector is booming and it was also a way to prove that the business model could scale“.

Qui Marin also believes that for a business to successfully establish itself on the international market, the best Country Owner to understand a market is a ‘native’ of the country, or at least someone who has lived and grown up there, because they have a better understanding of the culture. To ensure effective coordination of all the internal services, a Country Owner needs to be analytical, strategic and cooperative”. But that’s not all! They also need to manage “meetings with the various teams, partners and agencies, to make sure operations are properly monitored, and make suggestions on the next steps to take. Furthermore, they must be able to analyse business activity, set the main KPIs,make suggestions for improvement and coordinate sales events”.

Qui Marin’s view of a typical week in the life of a good Country Manager is pretty intense!

Any tips for selling on the Spanish market?

One thing’s for sure: you need to adjust your strategy to the market in question. Consumer purchasing patterns may differ, buying power may be weaker and communications strategies may be ‘friendlier’, depending on the country, so it’s important to think about every detail carefully.

Below are Qui Marin’s tips on how to sell to a new market:

  1. Make sure you have good logistics in place with high-quality partners and a well-prepared customer services team;
  2. Adjust your pricing strategy and sales plan to work with the cultural high points of the market;
  3. Humanise and localise the brand for the market: make sure consumers get a sense of belonging from the Spanish brand, rather than seeing it as just another brand that’s been established in their country.

Qui Marin isn’t new to the game in her role at Cheerz: she has already worked as a Country Manager/Owner for the Spanish market at several high-growth start-ups. For example, she helped make Clicars, the Spanish leader in the online automotive market, go from 0 to 75 million euros of revenue, shaking up a sector which she says was “old-fashioned and out of sync with car buyers’ digital behaviour”.

When she was at Feed, Qui Marin also converted Spaniards to smart-food, by getting the brand’s products into Spanish supermarkets and major retail groups. Qui Marin’s current goal at Cheerz is clear: “We want to develop a sustainable presence in the country, build up commercial relationships and become a well-known brand!”

We wish them every success. Cheers!

iZettle: the solution that makes sellers’ lives easier

Have you heard of iZettle, the Swedish financial technology company? They’ve been telling us more about what the role of Country Manager at their company entails.

According to Clément Jouffe, Country Manager France at iZettle, “the Country Manager has to navigate carefully; both internally to bring teams together and externally as the company’s main spokesperson. The job requires resilience in various areas: you need to be adaptable and have a conscientious and organised work approach, , which helps prevent ‘chaos’ descending”, explains Clément Jouffe!

In an almost cashless society like Sweden, iZettle has bedded in nicely. But what about the French market, where the sector is also booming and businesses are increasingly going digital?

Any tips for selling on the French market?

How should you go about selling in France? Clément Jouffe explains: “Start by doing an in-depth analysis of personas to help you identify needs more effectively. Then do market research into consumption patterns.” Although Clément Jouffe sees this process as important, you shouldn’t forget “product localisation, which also means making sure the localised materials and supporting communications are readily available. After all, what’s the point of creating a product or service if you’re going to leave it in the shadows?

To succeed on the French market, Clément Jouffe had to adapt various elements of iZettle’s strategy, including product features, marketing campaigns, prospecting techniques and recruitment processes. It’s important to localise the strategies you’ve used for your established market, to win over local prospects and retain their loyalty.

Having developed a solid network of local partners, Clément Jouffe is now focusing on iZettle’s business strategy in France, and on recruitment.

One thing’s for sure: here at TextMaster, we’re looking forward to following iZettle’s adventures in France!

Livewords: translation and interpreting to link up cultures

If you know TextMaster, then it’s likely you also know Acolad. And if you know Acolad, you may have heard of Livewords, which joined the Acolad Group in July 2019.

Livewords has 160 staff working to make it the leading translation and interpreting business on the Dutch market. We spoke to Edris Mehrbaz, Lead Account Manager Sales, who told us more about his role and the projects Livewords works on.

As head of sales for the Dutch market, Edris Mehrbaz has to “make sure we achieve our goals, carrying out tasks that cover everything from production and sales to human resources”.

Country Managers are usually result-focused and Edris Mehrbaz believes they also tend to have a “High-Dominance” profile (DISC  https://www.123test.com/disc-personality-test/). A good Country Manager should communicate daily with those around them and work closely with team leaders.

A typical week in Edris Mehrbaz’s working life

First tip: start the week by looking at the results from the previous one. Then ask yourself:

  • Are we on budget? If we are, what can we do this week to move forward? If we’re not, why not?
  • What do we need to be thinking about?
  • How can we complete our projects?
  • How can we make sure quotes are accepted?
  • What’s our production margin and how can we improve it?

“Each week should go like this until everything is up and running in every area. Country Managers work competently and independently and are highly focused on what they’re doing.”

Any tips for selling on the Dutch market?

The Dutch market is unique in that company turnover and employee numbers aren’t publicly available from the Chamber of Commerce. While big businesses have to provide this information, you have to go on estimates for smaller firms. This means that the Livewords team has to research the potential of lots of different companies.

Edris Mehrbaz is also clear about how you should prepare to sell on a new market. He thinks it’s important “to have a clear pitch and a good strategy before you begin. You have to find out who makes the decisions before contacting a company and make sure you work with businesses that show strong potential. Do this, and success will come easier. Surround yourself with great people. To align itself better with the market, Livewords now has: ” new prospecting technology, a better recruitment process and stronger management, explains Edris Mehrbaz.

“By introducing a sales team quota for meetings with decision-makers at companies with a turnover of more than five million Euros, with immediate or short-term needs (within a few months)”, Livewords aims tobecome a top-performing business with a high rate of quotation acceptance within the Acolad Group”. .

We can’t wait to see how this approach pays off in future!

Although these Country Managers may face different challenges, due to the type of company, market or business sector, one thing’s for sure: the Country Manager role is both exciting and intense. They have to “wear more hats” than anyone else working for an international business, including sales, marketing and product development, pricing, human resources, finance, etc. To succeed in the role, it’s also important to be someone who is versatile and eager to learn new things.

Many thanks to Pierre-Louis Guedon, Qui Marin, Clément Jouffe and Edris Mehrbaz for giving up their time to share their passion for what they do and their everyday challenges with us!

 

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