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Guide to the internationalisation process for Basque companies

Guide to the internationalisation process for Basque companies

Since 2005, the Gipuzkoan company Onura has been in charge of designing and executing the internationalisation action plan for companies.

Many companies contract internationalisation consultancy services to expand their business and take it to an international level. Onura not only provides these consultancy services, but also executes them in the clients' business lines. "We like to say that we are a commercial executive," says Aritz Santiago, partner and director of the company. "We don't just explain what needs to be done at the consulting or prospecting research level, but as we say, we also do it." He integrates commercial professionals into the client's team, and they start looking for potential clients by making calls, travelling to different places or going to festivals.

Thus, this commercial outsourcing company based in Donostia has seventeen years of experience doing the same job. Therefore, the working group is made up of salespeople, and there are currently 15 colleagues in total. "It is often said that nobody wants to be a salesperson, but we really like being salespeople", emphasised Santiago.

If Onura has managed to be competitive all these years, the director believes that it has been because they have different commercial profiles in the work group, as well as having that commercial instinct. In fact, each client company has its own characteristics. "Our sales people have to have specific skills. Sometimes you need knowledge in a specific technology or in a specific territory. If you put that salesperson on another project, he or she may not make the same contributions," he explained.

Aritz Santiago: "It is often said that nobody wants to be a salesperson, but we really like to be salespeople".

In recent years, says Santiago, more and more people are joining the project, and they are looking for "more digital marketing profiles". "Digital tools have a lot of weight in the market and sales are becoming more and more digital". Looking ahead, Onura will need sales people with industry experience, as long as they have digital skills. "Managing these different profiles will guarantee us a more competitive service," he added.

Sales, the end result of the whole commercial action plan process

In Santiago's words, Onura sells "the production capacity of the factories": "we don't have a closed product". According to him, they are getting quite well into the commercial equipment of the customers, and they are getting better and better results. "A better result does not mean that we are selling more. The sale is something that is going to happen at the end of the process," he added.

While a salesperson's goal is to sell, before reaching that goal, he or she needs to take some steps. "Selling, but a lot of things need to be addressed first. First you have to get a budget, and for that you have to create interest. In that sense, they consider it very important to carefully study Onura on boarding or the starting point, i.e. what the client company has done so far, what has worked for them and what their objectives are. "According to this starting point, the commercial plan is made, and we offer our client the commercial team that we believe to be the most suitable".

Aritz Santiago: "We come from the street, from the telephone and from the plane. We go to trade fairs and meet the customer directly".

Almost the majority of Onura's clients are companies from the Basque Country, and although they are currently involved in some projects abroad, they do not have a great need to go abroad. "Fortunately, the development of technology here is very big and we can easily go and compete in other markets," Santiago points out. Most of Onura's clients are small and medium-sized foundry, welding, additive manufacturing and plastics companies in the Industry 4.0 and metal-mechanics sector, industrial companies, which is, after all, the most common type of company to be found in the Basque Country: "They are usually companies with 20-30 employees, because it is not worthwhile for smaller companies to enter the internationalisation process, because they don't normally have to go very far".

Despite the name of internationalisation, around 40% of the projects carried out in recent years have been in Spain, says the Onura partner. "If a company from here has not done any commercial work in Spain, why would it go to France or Germany? Most of the projects are also aimed at "nearby Europe". Santiago also admitted that a year ago they were working in Russia and Ukraine, but the project was cancelled because of the war.