Prepare to sell services overseas

An overview of delivery, marketing and relationship-building for international traders in services.

Last updated 11 September 2019

It’s increasingly easy for clients to compare delivery between service providers, locally and globally. They’re more likely to switch than ever before if services disappoint them.

You should think about how you’ll not only win clients, but retain them and develop your business overseas.

Tips from our trade advisers

To build a successful business selling services overseas you should:

  • know how your UK services add value, and know which might deliver similar value overseas
  • do research to establish which markets have demand for these services
  • think about how you can raise awareness of your service overseas and develop a plan for this
  • identify stories and proof-points that can bring your service to life

Plan where you will deliver your service (that is, from the UK or in the market), and how you’ll deliver it. You’ll need to:

  • manage your most valuable resource, your people, appropriately - especially when travelling or working overseas
  • obtain the necessary accreditations or authorisations
  • develop and maintain relationships with your clients
  • consider how you’ll get paid and manage the associated risks

Deliver your services

Services to overseas markets can be delivered:

  • from the UK
  • by your staff in-market
  • with a permanent presence in-market

You’ll find more information on these options, and practical tips on staffing, in our advice about delivering services. You can also find practical information on topics like licensing, franchising and setting up a business abroad in our advice about routes to market.

Market your services

The marketing of services is significantly different to that of physical goods. Many elements of your marketing plan may be similar to those you’d use in the UK, but you’ll need to apply them in a market and environment that might be both unfamiliar and geographically distant.

You will need to develop a fully researched plan that will enable you to launch, promote and grow your services business in your chosen markets. Find details of how to develop your plan in our advice about marketing services.

Develop effective relationships

Unlike the selling of goods, your services are not products that can be viewed, tested and assessed for price suitability before making a decision to buy. Your prospective customer is buying into a relationship with you and your people. They will make decisions based around skills, knowledge, expertise and experience.

To make the most of this, you need to be well prepared and briefed on local business style and how best to build good relationships. This includes:

  • effective communication and influencing
  • meeting etiquette
  • knowing how business decisions get made and who makes them

Find out more about developing effective relationships in our advice about local business culture.