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Irish International Selling CEO Workshops

I finished up my second CEO workshop this afternoon in Limerick as part of The Dublin Institute of Technology/Enterprise Ireland International Selling Programme.  We covered three critical success factors for building and scaling a sales capability for international trade: Hiring, Compensation, and Qualification and Prioritization (as it applies to the pipeline and forecast at the CEO-level).

The high point of the yesterday’s workshop event in Dublin was the CEO Forum.  My guests were (left to right) Gerard Keenan (Keenan Systems), Bernie Cullinan (Clarigen) and Dermot Farrell (Lakeland Dairies).

They each shared with the group their unique challenges with respect to exporting their products internationally.  Some areas covered were credit management (Ireland experiences most of what the U.S. does, and not long after), the challenges of employing both a direct and reseller channel, and the cultural challenges related to selling into other countries.

Today’s CEO forum included (left to right), my guests, Helen Ryan (Creganna), Gerry Raftery (Dawn Farm Foods) and Ian Bolger (Bolger).

There were a host of take-aways for the other CEOs attending the event.  Here are a few examples:

Q:  How do you adopt your sales process internationally?

A:  Helen Ryan: We modify it to align with how the customer segments or types buy (that’s large versus small entities, regardless of the deal size).  It has much more to do with how they operate as a business than their geography.

Q: As you expand into each new country to use local salespeople or relocate Irish salespeople.

A: Gerry Raftery: Local people are the answer.

Q: Has the employment of the sales process you developed from the International Selling Programme enabled you to sell more effectively with respect to corporate buyers?

A:  Ian Bolger:  With all the training, strategies and tactics employed by big U.S. multinationals, our process has enabled us to stay even.  Those buyers get tougher and tougher each year.

The sales executives reporting to these CEOs are concluding an eight two-day module program.  The 2009 series begins in January.

Many thanks to hosts Claire McBride (DIT) and Eileen Banks (Enterprise Ireland).

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Hiring, Compensation and Qualification

Dave Stein)

The Gap of Dunloe (Photo: Dave Stein)

I’ll be headed back to Ireland next month to facilitate two one-day workshops as part of the CEO Series for the Dublin Institute of Technology and Enterprise Ireland’s International Selling Programme.  I’ll be working with 60 CEOs and managing directors over the two days.

The topics require a bit of explanation.  Each is a critical capability for a CEO of a small to mid-size company.

In 2002 I was hired to deliver a speech to 300 technology executives in Dublin.  The subject was qualification.  The person who hired me was an executive at Enterprise Ireland—the Irish government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the indigenous business sector. He told me that one of the biggest challenges for CEOs of Irish companies was to NOT get on a plane to America every time their phone rang with an inquiry from a large U.S. corporation. (This executive shared with me that I was hired for this speech because I was the only one of several well-known sales experts that actually qualified him before agreeing to meet with him face-to-face.)  He told me that the lack of qualification was an epidemic.  Fortunately that situation has improved considerably over the last six years.  With that being said, even CEOs need to be able to prioritize their companies’ portfolios of business opportunities, especially in mid- to smaller-size companies.

Hiring of sales executives is critical as well.  Too many Irish companies, in their quest to expand to the U.S. and other countries, hired what seemed to be a strong salesperson/manager.  Many of them didn’t work out.  This has been a significant problem.  Typical: A Dublin-based telecomms company hires a person to commence operations the U.S.  Six months later, after the person has been fired, the company is at least €100k poorer, has lost a year in the international business development component of their business plan, and has probably damaged their reputation for years to come.  Again, I can report real improvement on this front as well.  CEOs in general, have become more discerning, patient, and unwilling to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Back in 2003 I asked a room full of Irish CEOs if they would feel comfortable writing a check to a salesperson for €1 million.  (It’s a standard, unscientific test I give to get a sense of how CEOs measure the importance of the sales function within their organizations.)  I was almost ejected from the room.  The Irish business community then looked at selling very differently than we do here in the U.S.  I asked the same question to last year’s group.  Only one out of 25 CEOs had a problem with it.  More progress.

I’m delighted to be on the faculty of the Dublin Institute of Technology and thoroughly enjoy my professional and personal relationships with my relatively new and growing network of Irish business associates.  I was thrilled when the former New York Consul General for Ireland, with that appealing Irish sense of humor, introduced me to the Irish Minister of Education as “Dave O’Steen.”

What’s really fun is to see these CEOs and the sales executives that work for them, hungry for knowledge, exceedingly coachable, and genuinely passionate about growing their businesses internationally.

If you have an opportunity to buy from, or do business with, an Irish company, please share your experience with me.  I’m really interested, and they’d really like the feedback.

Springsteen LIVE!

I’m in my hotel room in Dublin, Ireland.  It’s Sunday evening.  Tomorrow morning I’m with a group of sales executives as part of the Dublin Institute of Technology’s International Selling Programme sponsored (in part) by Enterprise Ireland.  I’ve got two days here in Dublin, then off to Cork.  Then back to Dublin next week.

I arrived this morning on the redeye from Boston.  Landed 5:30 AM local time.  Taxied to the hotel.  Did a little work.  Napped for a while.  Took a long walk, trying to beat the jetlag.  Back to my room to read for a while.

So I go downstairs around 6:00 PM to grab some dinner and the streets are jammed.  Gridlock on the sidewalks in on the streets.  What’s going on, I ask.  !SPRINGSTEEN! 

No place to eat.  Every place is packed, so I head in the other direction.  Far.

I just got back to my room.  It turns out the concert is a few blocks away and my room on the 7th floor faces in that direction.  It’s loud.  Very loud.  I’m not a Springsteen fan.  I love my favorite artists from all genres. Just not Bruce.

I’m counting on getting some sleep tonight—part of my prevent jetlag routine, but I think that’s going to be a challenge.  This hotel is booked, and I would guess that everyone except me is at the concert. 

I expect that the partying will go on well into the morning.  I’ll put my earplugs in and hope for some sleep.