A big welcome to Abid Hussain and his team at Talent Squared! Abid has worked extensively recruiting international sales staff for an impressive range of clients in the UK and overseas. Here, he tells us more about finding the right people for going global.
1- Abid, will you tell us a bit more about Talent Squared, please?
Talent Squared is a niche international sales & marketing recruitment consultancy specialising in mid-senior executive positions. As a founder, over the last four years I have built a strong understanding of key exporters across many sectors including technical, manufacturing, engineering and consumer / FMCG companies. We have experienced a strong growth and demand for international sales & marketing candidates who can adapt quickly to constantly changing and challenging global conditions. Our clients are based across UK with regular requirements around the world.
2- What skills and experience do managers look for in candidates for export/international sales roles? How easy it to find candidates in the UK with these profiles?
It is absolutely essential for candidates to have local market knowledge with strong commercial experience in the targeted countries / region. Cultural sensitivity and business practices along with languages are useful. Developing strong relationships with people internationally is key to success. A lot of the roles require extensive travelling and candidates are usually away from home a lot of the time, this is also crucial to sustaining the long-term ambitions of our clients in overseas markets.
It is extremely difficult to find individuals who have the right experience and cultural fit. As a nation we seem to be at a standstill in export compared to other countries. The lack of command of foreign languages is an issue in the UK and we find that candidates from Spain, France, Italy and Germany are usually fluent in multiple languages and have an edge over British candidates. In difficult markets, led by cultural differences and language barriers, candidates need to have solid language skills to overcome challenges.
3 – Have you got any stats by industry, region or target markets?
The strongest region for export in the UK is London and South East followed by the Midlands, North West, North East and Yorkshire. However, the Midlands (both East & West) are forecast to outgrow the London & South East regions by 2017. China is a popular destination for West Midlands companies, which will continue to grow. The South West region and Yorkshire & Humberside are also predicted to grow steadily along with Scotland in Aerospace, Agriculture, Chemicals, Engineering and Food & Beverages sectors. Languages in demand are German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese.
4 – Have you noticed an increased interest in companies recruiting for international sales roles in Latin America?
We have placed candidates focusing on Latin America regularly and now we are also experiencing a lot of enquiries by engineering, technical, manufacturing and consumer/FMCG businesses who are ready to look at Latin America as part of their growth strategies. It is also about creating an awareness which I have done with the help of Sunny Sky Solutions. We are confident that more organisations will look towards this region.
5 – What is your advice for companies growing and looking at selling overseas in terms of recruitment?
It is extremely hard work and very risky entering new markets abroad. My advice would be to utilise services of expert market research companies like Sunny Sky Solutions to reduce as much risk as possible. UKTI is also a good starting point. It is also important to develop networks and learn from fellow exporters who have already penetrated the markets you are interested in.
Having a structured business plan and a strong vision are key elements to getting things right from the start.
We have a database of over 10,000 international sales professionals based in the UK alone covering many sectors, industries, countries and languages. As well as candidates our partners can assist companies in value added services that can help drive their exports in the right way.
BIEL is a well-known trade show for the lighting, electronics and electrical sectors in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can imagine it is like three shows in one, since the sectors covered are actually quite varied. I found the 2013 edition very well organised, although nothing too flamboyant in terms of presence, and disappointing in terms of the number of companies that weren’t exhibiting. It is the kind of show you attend if you pop by (if you live in or close to Buenos Aires) or one that you make a weekend of (if you come from further afield, like myself and an interesting number of Uruguayans who crossed the River Plate to attend).
I’d like to share with you some of my key findings:
- The big players were there. Think ABB, LG, Siemens, Philips and the like.
- There was no distinctive British presence (let alone a British stand) but there was a German “pavilion”…
- A significant part of the lighting show was dominated by Chinese companies which, given import barriers, is very significant. This doesn’t mean there aren’t European competitors in Argentina, but they are probably more niche and/or design-orientated, and this show wasn’t for them.
- The scale of national manufacturing, if judged by the show, was highly impressive, and with a strong export focus.
SeguriExpo takes part at the same time and in the same place as BIEL and its focus is on electronic security. SeguriExpo claims to be a “South American” show, so possibly less international. With safety and security being key priorities across Latin America, the show is highly relevant. Here my main surprise was to see an Italian stand, clearly not taken aback by the rampant import constraints and thinking pretty global. We can learn a thing or two from them.
Buenos Aires is well-known in Latin America for the quality and scale of its trade shows. Although they will vary in focus and quality, they can add significant value to your market research and get you building a bespoke network for your business. And, of course, a strong events market can be an opportunity in itself. Did I mention that both shows were organised by Messe Frankfurt? One great service export, indeed.
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