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Blog 12.11.2019

When the Finnish markets are no longer enough, head for Sweden

Pack along plenty of self-confidence, enticing products and a persistent mindset.
Author
Vilma Rissanen

Advisor, Business Finland, Ruotsi
+46 730 28 14 31
vilma.rissanen@businessfinland.fi

Twitter:
@vilma_rissanen

The Finns often think that they know the Swedish markets. But there may be some surprises ahead: the competition is tough and getting your foot in the door is not as easy as in Finland. However, Sweden is a stable, growing and near-by market which is worthwhile pursuing: Sweden has plenty of purchasing power to go around.

At Business Finland's office in Sweden, we assist Finnish companies in becoming international for the purpose of entering the neighboring markets. The companies can be in very different phases in their export plans: some can just be considering entering the Swedish markets, and some are further along in their plans. Sweden is absolutely worth aiming for when a company is planning international exports. Sweden offers room to grow.

We help the companies in creating connections in Sweden and in further developing their export plans.

I ended up in Sweden as Business Finland's advisor, because I have always been interested in Scandinavia and the Nordic markets. I completed my studies in Sweden, and before this position, I have worked at Finpro and in projects providing assistance to Finnish companies entering the Scandinavian markets. In between, I lived in Copenhagen and London, and then returned to Sweden again.
I work in Sweden mainly with small and middle-sized companies and serve an extensive variety of customers from various sectors. We help the companies in creating connections in Sweden and in further developing their export plans.

We follow very closely what is happening in the local markets: we network with local operators and also work in close cooperation with, for example, the Embassy, the Chamber of Commerce and the Finnish Institute.

The same megatrends can be witnessed in all the Nordic countries

The same megatrends can be seen in Sweden as well as in other Nordic countries: sustainable development, for example, is among the themes which reach across sector borders and in which Finns have an excellent chance for export opportunities. Digitalization and the changing face of trade are also very much visible in Sweden.

There are also many other sectors in Finland which are in demand in Sweden:

  • intelligent energy solutions, pharmaceutical research, health technology and the life sciences are of great interest to the Swedes. Intelligent traffic solutions, software and cyber security are also among the sectors which can be successfully imported to Sweden. In addition, there are also several ongoing large projects in the infrastructural sector which would offer Finnish companies great possibilities for doing business.

The Finns have a good reputation in Sweden. And Sweden does offer an excellent location for honing an international concept for exporting later or elsewhere in Scandinavia, Europe and even further.

Wrap your idea into a pretty package and appeal to the emotions of the Swedes

As a person who has lived in Sweden for a long time, it is easy to get blinded by the differences between the Finnish and Swedish markets, but there are several.

When a Finnish company is seeking export opportunities in a specific sector, it should be kept in mind that in Sweden, things take longer to develop and, for example, a larger number of people will most likely be involved in decision-making than in Finland. The Swedes also tend to make decisions on a more emotional basis.

In sales work, the accuracy of facts is a fundamental requirement. It is also important that Swedes actually like what is being sold to them. In Sweden, you need to know how to package things in a nicer package and in a more emotionally appealing manner than in Finland.
There are also longer traditions of multiculturalism in Sweden, which is manifested in the society in a different way compared to Finland. Also the consumer business is more traditional in the Swedish culture than in Finland.

Things to remember when heading to Sweden to do business

  • Be prepared to invest time and make the effort. Arranging the first contact may be more challenging than in Finland.
  • Be prepared for some tough competition: so carry out any preliminary tasks to the T – identify and get to know the competition and potential customers well. Think carefully about how to stand out from the crowd: how to win the Swedish customers over?
  • Wrap the solutions and products into an attractive and comprehensive whole.
  • Local presence is important. Remember this also in issues related to language: if possible, prepare your material in Swedish and have your discussions with potential customers in Swedish – even if it is only some small talk.
  • Ask for feedback. The Swedes often react to matters in a positive style, even if they would actually have some more critical thoughts. So, it pays off to ask some specifying questions to expand upon, for example, why a deal fell through.
  • Don't be too humble. The Swedes tend to aim high from the very beginning, so take along an extra portion of self-respect to meetings.

Home and working life in balance

I feel that the best thing about the Swedish culture is the great balance between home and work; the Swedish people really value a quality of life. Stockholm is a vibrant, international city which provides inspiration and brings about innovation.
The Swedes find it important that they thrive at work. Each employee is taken into consideration, communication seeks like-minded opinions and people talk at work – a lot. So, if you area heading to Sweden with exporting in mind, remember to consider these differences.

It is common in Swedish workplaces to gather together each Friday for a fredags fika, a shared moment with coffee and leisurely conversation. It is a time for talking about work as well as leisure-time things Swedish style – with optimism and emotion.

Listen to Vilma Rissanen's tips about the Swedish market

More information

 

Our blog series features tips from Business Finland’s advisors on trading successfully in the export market. Experts on various countries introduce readers to the local culture and the market’s special considerations for Finnish companies. The advisors also tell their own stories in the blogs, including how they ended up in the country they are writing about.