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10 tips for finding buyers on the European outsourcing market

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This document provides information about how and where to find European buyers for your IT or business process outsourcing (ITO/BPO) services. Important elements are knowing what you can offer and whom to offer it to, having a good online presence and making personal contact.

Note that following these tips does not guarantee you will find buyers. Many other factors can influence your success, such as the number of other suppliers on the market and how competitive your services are in comparison.

1. Anticipate and prepare to conquer the market

The digital transformation has been accelerated by COVID-19. Remote working blurred the distinction between in-house, nearshore, and offshore teams, which opens doors for IT or IT enables outsourcing providers from developing countries.

The threshold for outsourcing has lowered, the digital transformation is moving at full speed, and therefore demand has increased. But how can you find new buyers?

You have to choose a sector to focus on. Think about this sector in light of the pandemic and other current affairs (like the war in Ukraine) and the forecasted impact that has on the sector.

In general, COVID-19 has shown that the chances of finding new buyers are significantly lower during a worldwide pandemic. Outsourcing is a trust-based business and in-person meetings are very important. However, growing demand combined with limited travel options made European buyers more open to online meetings.


  • If you decide to start looking for new buyers but are faced with restrictions because of current affairs, you can still start with the preparations. Prepare your whole company and have a strategy ready. Please read the other tips in this document, which will guide you through the process.
  • Keep in mind that some marketing channels (for example trade events, Business to Business (B2B) meetings and seminars), may be restricted or unavailable.
  • For more information about guiding your company through crisis situations, see our study on how to respond to COVID-19 in the IT and Business Process Outsourcing sector.

2. Define your company and your offer before reaching out to find buyers

Before you can start looking for new buyers, you need to do some serious homework. Clearly define what you offer and formulate the main market research questions. The better your research is, the better your sales and marketing results will be. Research your market using social media channels such as LinkedIn and Instagram. You can also use Google Alerts, which is an automated internet search service that can help you keep track of developments and trends relevant to your business. Results can be sent to you daily by email.

You need to collect, organise and update the sources of information you use for market research. A simple Excel sheet will do. You can, for example, use Evernote to save interesting information for later reading. Also write down a summary of your research findings so you can refer to it later or refine your research for better results.


  • Follow market developments in the IT and BPO outsourcing sector, both in general and in your specific area. Make a list of key search words and use Google Alerts to stay informed.
  • Read the CBI market studies to learn about the European outsourcing market, trends, channels, requirements and more.
  • Check out blogs that discuss this part of the sales process, an example is this blog by e-marketing associates about defining your sales process for small companies.

3. Identify which buyers to target

It is important to segment and identify your target market before initiating contact to avoid wasting time and money on random, ineffective activities. Identifying your target market will help you decide later on how to advertise and make the most of your marketing resources.

The first step is to create your ideal client profile. Refer to online resources offering guides or templates on how to do this.

The next step is to gain a complete picture of what your potential buyer wants and what drives them. Buyers want to know their potential outsourcing provider has their best interests in mind. Therefore, you have to understand their motivations for outsourcing. For example, many European companies are interested in standardising processes to improve process flows for maximum efficiency. Your product or service can contribute to that. Focus on that end goal.

The COVID-19 pandemic left many European companies looking for solutions or alternatives for remote working and automation. If your company can offer such solutions, you need to step up now. Identify how your offer can help companies that are struggling right now. Search for such opportunities on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.


  • Create your ideal client profile. Write down what you know about you current buyers. Then add everything you wish to know about them. Find the common ground and look for new buyers that have overlap with your current buyers.
  • Look at your main competitors and find out who their customers are. Look at their marketing efforts to find out what kinds of marketing campaigns have and have not worked. Use them as examples not to steal their customers, but to make your own services and product better.
  • If you specialise in IT or Business Process outsourcing for a particular segment, start with focussing on that segment, because you have a competitive advantage due to your experience.

4. Work with a sales agent or other intermediary to find a strategic partner

Experts in the European IT and Business Process outsourcing sector agree that working with a sales representative or a matchmaker is one of the most efficient ways to enter the European market. Because they include personal contacts and one-to-one selling, which have proven to be the most effective.

Many companies from developing countries that are doing business in Europe work with a strategic partner (usually an IT company or consultancy in Europe with an existing client base). Matchmakers and sales representatives can help IT companies in developing countries find a strategic partner. Working with intermediaries has become more important in the COVID-19 crisis, as meeting potential partners in person became very difficult during the pandemic, due to travel restrictions.

The intermediary’s expertise should fit your solutions or vertical market. If you offer search engine optimisation services for the tourism industry, you should look for a person who has worked in a tourism industry in your target market. That person probably knows many companies in the tourism industry of your target market and might be able to introduce you to them.

You can pay a sales representative or matchmaker to find potential customers for your products or services. The main difference between a matchmaker and a sales representative is that a matchmaker only connects you with potential clients and organises meetings (you do the selling). A sales representative also does the selling for you and may eventually also get involved in the projects.

Most IT and IT-related service companies find sales agents or intermediaries through their existing networks or by expanding their networks using various online and offline channels. Making use of diaspora has also proven to be a successful route for many IT or Business Process outsourcing providers from emerging countries.

You must check the size and value (quality) of your potential intermediary’s existing network. A good sales agent or intermediary has a large, existing contact base. Your expenses will rise by having to pay this person, but you will be free to concentrate on your service or product and search for other markets yourself.

Make sure you properly inform your (potential) intermediary about your company. Consultants, for example, speak with many potential customers and are often involved in creating long lists of potential outsourcing providers. The more information they have on your company and the better they understand your capabilities, the more they can spread the word about you.


  • Limit your risk by setting a trial period of a few months, with concrete goals and deliverables. For instance, the intermediary should provide a specific number of leads within this trial period. If they do not, you can end the contract. Be careful with intermediaries who will only work for a retainer or success fee, who want to work for you part time alongside another job or who do not have an existing network of professional contacts.
  • Sales agents and other intermediaries often work on the basis of a retainer (a fee you have to pay regardless of the work they do). Usually, this is a fixed monthly payment plus a set percentage of the total project value they deliver. When working with intermediaries, you should aim to agree a retainer fee plus a success fee, which should motivate the intermediary to deliver.
  • When contracting an intermediary, use a good lawyer who knows the laws of the intermediary’s country of residence and has experience with this type of contracting. Pay special attention to exit clauses (how and when the contract can be ended), success criteria, deliverables and payments.
  • Also refer to the CBI study about the European intermediary landscape for ITO and BPO services.

5. Look for buyers through sector associations

There are several organisations in Europe that focus on the IT or Business Process outsourcing market and its developments. Connecting with these organisations and attending their events will provide you with valuable information and contacts. In some cases, it will also make it easier for European buyers to find you. Follow these associations’ websites, sign up for their newsfeeds and other publications and/or register as a member.

The leading trade organisations for IT and IT-related services outsourcing in Europe are:

Central and Eastern European Outsourcing Association (CEEOA): this organisation aims to be an effective industry knowledge resource, promotional tool and communication channel for service providers. Their website also offers sector best practices, expert information, research findings and innovative solutions from CEE countries.

Deutscher Outsourcing Verband: this is an independent member organisation for the IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing sector. They are a registered association and platform for professionals and organisations involved or interested in sourcing or providing IT and business process services in and/or to German-Speaking (DACH) markets in Europe (DACH: Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

European Business and IT Services (EUBIS): an ITO, BPO and RPA (robotic process automation) industry and events directory.

EBSA: European Business Services Association: a European BPO association that focusses on the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region. They organise events, have a directory of members and publish news and studies on the BPO market.

Global Sourcing Association (GSA): presents itself as the home of the global sourcing standard. Their aim is to build a positive reputation for the strategic sourcing industry.


  • Follow the leading sector associations listed above. Focus on those that are active in countries where your product or services are in highest demand. Keep track of relevant events they promote and check their newest releases and research findings. Most associations are currently actively posting interviews, webinars and/or articles on how to deal with COVID-19 and its aftermath.
  • Look up these associations’ member lists, which may provide prospects for your marketing campaign. You can also see what kinds of members they have. This is important if you are thinking of becoming a member yourself and/or about participating in an event.
  • If you are an ITO provider in the CEE region, consider placing your company in the ITOList from the CEEOA. This is an online catalogue of IT outsourcing providers in the CEE region.

6. Work on a professional online presence

Buyers no longer wait for companies to introduce themselves. They are looking for you and like to do their own research.

Web searches are very popular among buyers. You can consider your website to be your business card. A website is the first place where buyers will see whether you have a well-established company. If you do not appear in their web searches, or when you have an unprofessional or unfinished website, they may assume that you are not a suitable partner and unable to fulfil their demands.

Treat your website as your most important and valuable marketing asset. Provide enough high-quality information that your prospects can easily find. The first impression your website makes is critical. This means you need a professional, well-maintained website that helps to promote you and is ready for marketing.

Make sure your website is focused less on you, and more on your customers. Try to understand how your potential customers think. What are their wishes and challenges, what information do they need? Also add references from your current or previous clients, which are useful to build trust. Be sure your information is accurate, to the point and up to date. Your website is your extended brochure where potential buyers should be able to find most of the information they are looking for.

When a potential customer is browsing through your website, they need to find a call to action. This is an opportunity to take your visitors a step forward to become a customer. It is the most important part of making a sale. There are many examples of practical, innovative and/or funny calls to action. This wordstream blog and Hootsuite article show some examples to you.

After your website is complete, you have to make it easy for potential buyers to find on the internet. Many people use search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo to find information online. Buyers will most likely do the same. Your site should therefore be visible for those looking for your specific service. You can also try using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which helps you appear higher up in search engine results and so makes you easier for potential buyers to find.   

In addition to having a website, social media are a good tool for promoting your company. People and companies can create and share content and connect with one another (thereby growing their social networks). The most common social media platforms in Europe are Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. Unlike the others, LinkedIn is specifically for professional networking.


  • Take note that unless you are a professional web developer, developing a website is not a do-it-yourself job. Hire professionals and brief them properly. Your website must be usable on PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
  • If you have or are looking for both local and international clients, it is a good idea to separate your offers for each. Buy separate domains or use subdomains to separate your local offers from your international offers.
  • Share content and news on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to increase your visibility.

7. Use your network & make contacts

Your network is potentially one of your most valuable assets for generating new business. The European market for IT and Business Process outsourcing can be best approached through personal contact. One on one and social selling is very important, because it is a trust business. The good news is that the pandemic lowered the threshold for online meetings and doing business online. Your network is a great place to start meeting people (online).

LinkedIn is the most widely used international networking source. The website has groups and discussion pages for all types of industries. Join several of them. Be active, participate in discussions and invite other regular visitors to connect with you. Build your network and make contacts in your target market. The larger your professional network, the bigger the chance you will successfully develop business. Larger is better: while the quality of contacts is important the size and growth of your professional network is equally important.

Invest carefully in Google Ads, advertising on Instagram or Facebook Ads. Test your advertisements before committing large amounts of resources, time and money. Experience shows that using these tools to make connections can be very disappointing.

Cold calling and launching mass email campaigns are among the least efficient ways of promoting your IT or Business Process services in Europe. This type of promotion requires expertise and specific skills. If you want to take this approach and do not have the right people in-house, hire specialists to help you.


  • One of the best ways of making relevant, high-quality contacts in Europe is to attend various, specialised trade events such as trade fairs and conferences. See the tip: Attending trade events, fairs and conferences below for more information about this. Have a strategy and clear objectives to boost the size and quality of your professional network and have a system in your company where you register all your contacts. You can use your contact database to organise meetings.
  • Optimise your LinkedIn profile for sales. Consider upgrading your LinkedIn membership and use Sales Navigator. Read blogs to find tips and tricks to make the most of your Sales Navigator membership, and look at LinkedIn’s tips for using your network to find buyers.
  • Work with your contacts. They are not just records in your database. Update them about your latest company news, connect with them on LinkedIn, get them involved in your market research, invite them to events you’re attending (online and offline) and socialise with them when possible and appropriate. Your next sales will most likely come from these contacts.

8. Attending trade events, fairs and conferences

Today, large general IT trade fairs, are less relevant (many of them, like CeBIT, do not even exist anymore). The scope is too wide, the overlap too small. However, smaller, specialised trade events have become more important. Bear in mind that specialised events are only interesting for companies in that specialised sector.

Be realistic: attending an event (as a visitor, speaker or exhibitor) will probably not result in immediate sales, although it happens sometimes. However, it will give you many opportunities for networking and expanding your professional network. In any case, when you are at a European event, do not aggressively try to sell your services or products. Use a soft approach and focus on making a larger number of high-quality contacts you can follow up on.

Attending carefully selected trade fairs, B2B events and conferences is an excellent way to expand your professional network in Europe. It may also be worthwhile to visit sector-oriented trade fairs on other continents. Besides making contacts at these events, you can also do market research, develop new business ideas and follow up on the latest trends and developments in your specific market segment or technology.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many in-person trade events, fairs and conferences have been cancelled or moved to hybrid or virtual. At the moment, most trade fairs have resumed their businesses. However, most events still have a hybrid option.

If you cannot attend an event in person, you can still make use of the online exhibitor catalogue (of current or past events). These online catalogues have search engines, which you can use to find buyers per product or product group. They offer relevant information such as buyers’ websites and contact details, making them a good starting point to find potential clients or to prepare for a trade fair visit in the future.


  • Do your homework and select events carefully. Only attend events that fit your profile well. There are many trade events directories available online, such as 10Times, EventsEye and UK Exhibitions. Create a list of relevant events and update this list regularly. Use the trade fair's exhibitor directory to organise meetings with exhibitors before the fair. Participate at B2B activities at events (if available).
  • When attending a conference, try to apply for a speaker spot (if you are an expert or innovator in your field). Also invite some of your existing contacts to meet with you at the event. You can also use your visit as an opportunity to organise meetings with some of your contacts at their offices. Read this blog for more tips on trade fair participation.
  • Get support for your event participation. Contact business support organisations in your country. Some development cooperation organisations and programmes provide event participation support. Examples include SIPPO, CBI and the Enterprise Europe Network.

9. Participate in the programmes offered by Business Support Organisations

Business support organisations (BSOs) exist to support your business. They can help you with knowledge, contacts, connections and insights that you may not be able to access on your own, or at least not as easily. Many BSOs invest in export promotion and event organisation and participation abroad, including B2B matchmaking, roadshows and conference and trade fair participation.

Furthermore, BSOs often organise trade missions. Organisers of these missions have strong relationships with businesses in your target markets. They can help you identify, screen and meet prospective buyers.

Examples of BSOs that might be relevant for your IT or Business Process Outsourcing are:

Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI): a government-funded organisation that has helped more than 800 entrepreneurs become successful exporters to the European market. They publish market information for various products and services, offer export coaching programmes and technical support, inform and influence policymakers and involve importers in the development and implementation of their programmes.

Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO): a government-funded organisation that helps BSOs improve their services for export companies and strengthen their own organisational structure, as well as connecting them to an extensive network.

Import Promotion Desk (IPD): a government-funded organisation in Germany that offers long-term, structural promotion for imports of key products and services from selected partner countries. They match German importers with relevant exporters in emerging growth markets. They are also partners with Leverist.de, a platform that connects companies with existing business opportunities in developing countries and emerging economies. On their COVID-19 topic page, companies and development corporations can post specific pandemic-related issues and solutions, enabling companies all over the world to find information and directly connect with relevant professionals.

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN): a network created by the European Commission to help companies marketing a wide range of products and services innovate and grow internationally.

Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB): a regional BSO that supports Ugandan companies that sell products or services on the global market, or wish to do so. For example, they organise an export promotion tour, participate in trade fairs and offer trade fair support. Their website also provides market information on various products and services, export guides, market analysis tools and much more.


  • Make sure you know the relevant BSOs in your country, region and market, and connect with them. Look at the different kinds of support they can offer you. Examples are BPESA from South Africa, Itida from Egypt or TAG Georgia. Actively seek out contact with these organisations on a regular basis, so that they know about your company. Get your business on their mailing lists, sign up for their newsletters and attend their events.
  • Avoid the pitfall of wasting time on fruitless networking. Participate in programmes which really fit your profile and objectives, and which offer services that you can benefit from, in the short and long term. Also share your knowledge and challenges with BSOs, so that they can improve their services.
  • Also look at embassy programmes in your European target countries. They may be a good starting point to find buyers.

10. Use company databases and trade directories

Company databases

Company databases can be a resource for finding potential buyers. They may be free, such as company.info, or paid, such as chamber of commerce databases (for example, the Kamer van Koophandel in the Netherlands) and commercial databases like Bold Data. Identify which databases offer you the best prospects and use them to make a list of potential buyers to target.

Trade directories

You can also use trade databases to find potential buyers. Examples are Kompass, and Europages. There are other trade directories available in Europe, but they usually primarily work with trade of tangible products. Which is different from the outsourcing sector, where the products are usually not tangible.

You can also use these directories to present your own products. Some trade directories charge for membership to publish your information or contact other traders. Sometimes, you can use a free trial to start with and then see whether it is worth paying the annual fee.

After your registration, you can either join as a supplier or directly look for buyers. Be selective in the directories that you are using and make sure that you leave a professional impression. Posting randomly on many sites may look cheap and even desperate.

Industry experts indicate that cold calling has always been very difficult in the IT and Business Process outsourcing sector. If you do decide to start cold calling, focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, which industry experts say are the easiest to get in touch with.


  • Most paid commercial databases offer a free trial period. Make the most of this free trial by thoroughly preparing beforehand (see the first tips in this document).
  • If you plan to start calling companies in Europe, check the ministry of health websites in each country first to find out if home-working standards apply. Most companies use call-forwarding to their employees’ home (or mobile) phones, so you may catch your potential buyer in a home setting.
  • Never spam! Do not send out large numbers of unsolicited emails. Make sure the telephone numbers and email addresses you use are legitimate to use for cold calling or emails.

Read our documents on Organising your Exports, Doing Business and Buyer Requirements to gain more understanding on how to enter the European market and what it takes to become a successful exporter of IT and Business Process Outsourcing to Europe.

This study was carried out on behalf of CBI by Globally Cool in collaboration with Laszlo Klucs.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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When we look for a partner, their website is the first thing we see. Consider it your business card. If you are looking for inspiration, check out websites of European companies that are similar to yours. And do not forget to add a portfolio of your best work. Web designer at a Dutch/Finnish website development company