The idea of bringing your business to a new market can be exciting, but in practical terms, it can be a daunting task. What cultural subtleties might you be missing, and how do you go about getting your sales methods right? Here’s what you need to know before you try to break into the Nordics.
With almost three decades’ worth of experience of the Nordic markets, and with offices from the very north to the very south of Sweden, we know pretty much all there is to know about sales and customer service in the Nordics. In our experience, there are three main things companies hoping to break into the region need to be aware of:
Nordic consumers are, generally speaking, relatively tech-savvy and well used to digital communication including signing digital agreements. In fact, since a few years back, it is required by law to have written agreements of any sales, with most opting for digital agreements sent out via text message.
When the law first came in, it was a steep learning curve and many found that sales dropped initially. As things have settled, however, we have reached an acceptance rate of over 90% for our digital agreements in the region. The benefit, it seems, is that sales are more secure – perhaps in part thanks to refined sales methods and processes, but also quite possibly as any consumers in doubt are automatically identified at the agreement signing stage.
Telesales is incredibly common in the Nordic countries and, as such, widely accepted. In Sweden in particular, telesales is both popular and effective, but it’s important to know that there’s a register of numbers of those who have opted out of being contacted, which you can’t call.
There are different ways of finding leads, of course, including through companies that work specifically with lead generation through online competitions, partner lead collaborations, online marketing and more.
Another thing to keep in mind, once you get started with telesales in the Nordics, is that the tone and approach that work in the UK likely won’t go down very well. Small talk is a big no-no. Opt instead for direct, functional language that is clear and honest, and be mindful of that expectation of honesty and accountability as the customer relationship grows. If you say you’re going to return a customer’s call on a certain day, you absolutely have to do so. Overall, the expectations on customer service are very high in the Nordic countries.
Slow decision-making process
The flipside of the expectation of direct and honest communication is, perhaps somewhat ironically, that decision-making takes time in the Nordics. The slightly more aggressive sales approach in the UK tends to move quickly, and agreements can sometimes be made in a flash. If you expect the same of the Nordics, you’re going to get very frustrated very quickly.
And sure enough, waiting weeks or more to hear back from a potential customer after a sales call or meeting can be frustrating – but it’s not without its benefits. It might take five or six rounds of discussions at the client HQ before they are ready to sign an agreement with you, but when they do, you can be sure that they are fully and wholeheartedly on board. They’re not going to take changing partners or suppliers lightly either, because why would they want to go through that long process again unless they really had to? Be patient, and you will be rewarded with loyal, long-term clients.
This slow decision-making process and the preference for very direct communication are both rooted in the Scandinavian tendency to value security over almost everything else, often including price. Quality is important, and feeling safe is important – and in order to make a sound decision, clear and honest communication is key.
What about the difference between the Nordic countries – or are they all the same?
In much of the above, Sweden is leading the way, in particular with regards to the prevalence of telesales. Finland is where telesales is the least common in the Nordics, but don’t let that put you off as it can make for a less tired, less saturated market.
If Swedes are sometimes described as reserved but direct, Danes and Norwegians tend to come across as even more blunt – sometimes to the point where non-Nordic sales people find it borderline aggressive. But rest assured that it’s not an indication of their attitude to your product.
What all Nordic countries have in common is an enjoyment of summer, complete with extensive holiday rights that mean that most offices shut down completely for the month of July, or often as early as Midsummer. If you’re waiting for an answer from a Nordic client, follow up in early June or be patient and pick it up in the autumn. Perhaps you could enjoy an extended summer break, too…
Do you want our help with customer service or telesales in the Nordics? We’d love to hear from you!