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10 Proven Tips to Score International Sales

17 Apr

10-tips

American exports have hovered just below expectations this past year. Nonetheless, the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) is closing in on the goal of doubling in the five years since announced January, 2010. One of the keys to increased export sales, and other forms of international business, are the efforts of new-to-export small, entrepreneurial companies like yours.

Small, entrepreneurial companies are responsible for some 70 percent of new jobs in this country. Becoming exporters boosts overall sales and typically provides higher salaries to its employees.

Our research identified the greatest barriers to exports sales, which revolve around the double quandaries of not knowing how to begin and simultaneously not knowing the many export resources available to small American exporters. There are many local, state and national organizations established to help you through the process, some of which we reference in the Ten Tips below. These tips result from many years of real life export experience. It is our hope that some or all will help you chart a successful course in exporting your products or services. Click here to download pdf version of the article.

Tip # 1: Do you have an exportable product or service?

  • Look at your product line(s). Do you have a product(s) that could fill an international need?
  • Have you had unsolicited inquiries from possible international buyers, sales reps or distributors?
  • Do a little homework to see if any of your competitors sell overseas.
  • At the same time, look to see where they sell globally.
  • Check with your state or federal international trade office for assistance in getting started.
  • If it looks like you have a potential export, jot down an export plan outline with some goals.

Tip # 2: Who can help?

  • Contact your nearest Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office for initial guidance. But only if they have proper international accreditation. If this checks out,
  • Reach out to your nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) – www.Export.gov – for more extended help in getting started.
  • Also contact your state economic development international office.
  • Go to an experienced international business development consultant, and ask for a free assessment.

Tip # 3: Test the waters

  • Attend one of you industry international trade shows here in the U.S.
  • Register for a Futurallia Global Business Forum where you are matched with up to 16 international small businesses to present your product(s). Go to www.IBNewsMag.com for a complete listing of upcoming events, and while you’re at it, register for a free subscription to our quarterly e-magazine that provides in-depth features and information to help exporters.
  • Talk with those international buyers, distributors or sales reps you met at trade shows and exchange contact information.
  • Visit their websites and ask your local state international office or nearby USEAC to further qualify prospects through trade specialists.
  • If the prospect checks out, consider a face-to-face meeting either here or overseas to talk more. (Again see if your state international office offers financial incentives for a sales trip to meet them.)

Tip # 4: Pull together a brief international sales plan

  • It can be a two-pager or so, describing your intended export product, your competition in this industry or category, sate if you have done any exporting in the past with some details, a proposed distribution scheme, and other relevant information – oh, and describe any export experience you and your team may have had.
  • You can build on the plan later by including market profiles, risk determinations, investment dollars, time and other resource allocations, projected ROI, project descriptions and success probabilities.
  • Get international legal advice about tariff barriers and patent or trademark protection.
  • Update the plan periodically as changes occur.
  • Be sure your owner supports the plan and signs off on it.

Tip # 5: Scout out financial help if needed

  • Talk with your banker about SBA, or other short-term loans. They are out there.
  • If not your local bank, check with the SBA for banks in your area that grant SBA loans.
  • You should also seek out an accountant who can provide tax information about offshore sales. There may be tax implications you need to know in advance.
  • If your proposed product is 50% or more manufactured in the USA, you may qualify for even more financial assistance.
  • You may want to check out the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (www.ExIm.gov) and talk with a local rep about small business funding sources, and/or credit insurance.

Tip # 6: How to qualify international business prospects

  • Ask your state international office or local USEAC for help in qualifying prospects.
  • Credit sources are available to help get information about prospects.
  • International consulting firms can pull together detailed information about your prospects and their business from various sources.

Tip # 7: Develop drop dead writing and design skills for marketing materials

  • It’s not like writing an email to another U.S. company. Cultures, language and business strategies vary by country.
  • If your prospect or customer doesn’t know good old American English, you may want to bring in a qualified translator and/or interpreter.
  • Use straightforward and concise language without jargon or slang to avoid confusion.
  • Make your emails short and to the point. Bullet points are always easier to get specific responses.
  • Questions should be the same way. Don’t bury your questions in long paragraphs.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get immediate replies. Your foreign counterpart may be busy on other things and may need time to get his or her own input together, or approval, to proceed.
  • Be sure your marketing materials and website are intentionally designed for international people – concise content, avoiding long paragraphs, slang and jargon – so they can more easily translated if needed. Equally important is the overall look or design of your marketing materials and website that transcends domestic materials and rivets the attention of foreign prospects.

Tip # 8: How to be certain of getting paid

  • Selling internationally has its own risks, for sure. Plan in advance how you will mitigate as much financial risk as you can.
  • One sure way is to collect all or some by wire transfer before your manufacture.
  • Check around and select an experienced international banker, because many international buyers may insist on some sort of payment upon performance.
  • Your international banker can help you with Letters of Credit, whereby both parties can verify performance before releasing funds.
  • Never, ever, accept payment by a check. This can lead to falsified payments.
  • By the same token, never approve a financial payment without eyeing a draft of the intended method. For example, you may not be able to meet proposed shipment terms.
  • If it turns out to be a major order, have as many people review it as possible, including your banker, FF, your own people and owner to insure that all of your “ducks are in a row. “
  • In many cases, the ExIm Bank offers reliable credit insurance to insure the overseas customer can make payment.

Tip # 9: Getting your goods to the international buyer

  • Due to a growing number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between the U.S. and other countries, many trade barriers have gone away.
  • You can find out about these FTAs online at Export.gov.Then get yourself a good freight forwarder (FF) with a great deal of experience who is responsive to your needs and one of your key partners throughout the entire transaction.
  • Your FF will determine freight costs in the most direct shipment method, and advise about cargo insurance and other hidden costs so there are no surprises.

Tip # 10: If you designate a distributor or agent, make sure they perform

  • It can be scary turning over your hard-earned goods to some foreign rep or distributor.
  • Be sure you interview your distributors carefully, and maybe even go visit them. We’ve even gone with them to meet their end-users.
  • A caution about assigning exclusive distribution to any one distributor or agent. Not only can they rarely cover the entire country adequately, but local laws may make it hard to fire them if they don’t meet your expectations.
  • Before considering exclusivity, make them prove themselves first.

Click here to download pdf version of the article.

If you would like clarification or more information about these tips, please contact IBNewsmag Publisher, Frederick Baehner at fbaehner@intermark3.com,

or Tel 816.210.8320.
www.IBNewsMag.com.

10 Proven Tips to Score International Sales

15 Feb

InterMark3, Inc. recently conducted focus groups and a survey comprised of entrepreneurial small companies for IBNewsMag. The most important outcome was the reported lack of knowledge and resources available to help them export. As a result, we have compiled a 10-step checklist by international business experts to help these new-to-export companies through the process of success-filled exporting.

Get your FREE copy of our ten steps for successful export sales by emailing:  info@intermark3.com with your name, company and email address.