Overseas offices and a relentless sales strategy are vital to New Zealand companies to succeed on the international stage, the NZ CEO Summit was told.
The summit, held at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland, brought together chief executives, directors and general managers from large and mid-market New Zealand organisations from across major industries.
Speaking at the event, GreenButton founder and chief executive Scott Houston said when businesses were targeting an overseas market it was essential to set up an office in that country.
This month Microsoft bought GreenButton for an undisclosed sum. The Wellington cloud computing business made a name for its work in the Lord of the Rings movies.
Houston said that when he was targeting customers in the United States five years ago the first thing he did was buy a cheap apartment to set up as an office, register a dot com address and purchase a Mustang convertible.
"From there people realised we were committed to the market. They could see we were a real startup."
Then it was just a case of door knocking again and again to get the attention of big clients until persistence paid off. "Every month I was there on their doorstep."
For four years he spent two weeks of every month building GreenButton's capability in California's Silicon Valley.
GreenButton now partners with such organisations as Boeing, Pixar and Nasa. "If you're selling in that market you absolutely have to be in that market."
Murray Holdaway, chief executive of New Zealand startup Vista Entertainment Group, agreed with the need for exporters to have a presence in target markets.
Vista Entertainment has a 23 per cent global market share in cinema management software, selling to 53 countries. It has 125 staff, revenue has grown to $30 million a year, and profit is $6m a year.
Reaching the chief executive of a large overseas business for a sales pitch was usually near impossible, he said. Therefore, it was important to speak to lower-ranking people in the business and figure out who the influencers were.
Holdaway said many innovative NZ companies had a "build it and they will come mentality".
Instead, they should be taking their products and services to the world. "When we started out I was the only sales guy and my territory was the world."
He said not investing enough in training sales staff was a common mistake made by NZ companies. Americans were extremely effective at providing formal sales training. "I'm on a personal crusade to make sales an honourable profession."