Which EU economies are the most internationally ambitious?

New data indicates we may be close to finding out.

September 17, 2016

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The world has never felt smaller. With the rise of ecommerce, cheap international travel and social media, today’s business leaders are just as likely to be building their customer base in Manchester, Melbourne, or Mumbai.

At LinkedIn, we have a unique insight into the behaviours of the world’s professionals through their activity on LinkedIn, from building their professional identity, to sending and receiving connections requests. I’m lucky to be in a role where I can apply that vast amount of data to really interesting business challenges.

One area we’re increasingly working on with customers of LinkedIn Sales Solutions is understanding where potentially untapped markets may exist, based on the data of companies that they may be interested in doing business with. As part of that, it helps to understand where salespeople in key markets are currently looking. When we investigated the data it became apparent that salespeople in some countries were far more internationally-focused than their peers elsewhere.

Some of the most globally-minded countries were no brainers. If you’re Malta (in the top spot) with a population of less than half a million people, then a lot of your business will be beyond your borders.

However, some of the findings were more surprising.

The UK, for example, has a long history as an international trading nation. You might expect that would put them somewhere near the top of the list. However, of the EU-28 countries we looked at, the UK came in at 23rd when it comes to the proportion of time and effort salespeople are focusing overseas.

The data offers other interesting insights on the UK:

●      The ‘special relationship’ with the USA persists in the UK, with the market being the top prospecting target for UK salespeople (36 per cent of UK’s total activity)

●      EU markets remain important with France, Germany and the Netherlands ranking second, third and fourth respectively. Australia was fifth and the UAE sixth.

●      Almost a third (32 per cent) of all the UK’s international prospecting activity was with EU countries

●      Emerging countries (BRIC and MINT)* received significantly less attention, representing less than 7 per cent of UK’s international prospecting activity

Even before the events of this summer in the UK, it was important for companies to build their presence and audiences overseas. This data would seem to suggest that UK business leaders should look further afield for new opportunities and start building those relationships that will help their businesses grow in the future.

More broadly, business is becoming more globalized with increased opportunity in the international markets. Social media has facilitated greater market access. It allows salespeople to easily identify and build relationships with the key decision makers within organisations that they want to do business with, whether they’re at home or abroad. That’s one of the reasons that ‘social selling’ - the use of online channels to identify and build relationships with potential customers - is increasingly popular** among salespeople, business development professionals, and marketers.

Based on these findings, business leaders need to ask themselves:

●      Where does my sales strategy stand in terms of domestic and international ambitions?

●      How aligned is my sales strategy to the changing opportunities in the domestic and international marketplace?

●      Is my business well positioned to access these opportunities?

European countries ranked by proportion of international prospecting activity

1

Malta

80%

11

Latvia

51%

21

Sweden

34%

2

Slovakia

72%

12

Czech Republic

51%

22

Italy

32%

3

Cyprus

69%

13

Hungary

50%

23

United Kingdom

31%

4

Austria

69%

14

Slovenia

47%

24

Finland

30%

5

Luxembourg

68%

15

Greece

46%

25

Spain

29%

6

Ireland

68%

16

Croatia

44%

26

France

29%

7

Estonia

67%

17

Belgium

41%

27

Denmark

27%

8

Germany

62%

18

Romania

40%

28

Netherlands

22%

9

Lithuania

61%

19

Poland

39%

 

10

Bulgaria

53%

20

Portugal

36%

Notes:

*BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey)

**In recent research we carried out, we found that 98 per cent of top-performing salespeople rated ‘social selling’ - the use of online channels to identify and build relationships with potential customers - as ‘extremely critical’ to their ability to close deals. 

How we got to the numbers

This data is based on an anonymised, representative, sample of LinkedIn members. The analysis looked at sales professional engagement with decision makers (people with at least Director level seniority) between June 2015 to May 2016, with engagement defined as profile views, InMails sent, connection invites, saving members as a potential business lead.

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