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Visiting an Export Market?

Author: Anton Pemmer, Austrade TradeStart Adviser

There are many ways to start exporting; some are accidental exports, an email, a phone call that leads to a random order to some place on the other side of the world and then all of a sudden, you’re an exporter.

Another way is an organised approach, planned and executed to aim for the best results at the minimum of risk.

Planning your business trip overseas

At an early stage in the export process it helps to go and see for yourself which market offers the best opportunities and where to focus your efforts. Having a plan in place really helps to get the most from your trip. Google can only tell you so much, the rest you have to walk, smell and taste the market for yourself to understand it. From a far everything looks good and easy, it’s not until you are there that you say “I didn’t know that”.

Determining where and when to visit

There are no fixed and fast rules about how soon to visit a market, but one thing is clear: you should always visit before entering into any agreements with prospective agents, distributors or other business partners that could influence your future dealings in that market, don’t do that and you may well pay the price.

The choice of the market will depend on the work you have already done in researching opportunities with your Export Advisor - and possibly as a result of direct enquiries you have already received. Rather than just visiting one prospective customer or agent, however, consider calling on several to give you a basis for comparison.

Always leave the most prospective until last – when you are better prepared to handle enquiries and evaluate the fit with what you want to do. Don’t take on more than one or two markets to start with. Concentrate your effort to have a much better chance of success. Starting with a smaller market first is a good way to learn some valuable lessons, and if you do screw up unexpectedly, then the impact on further opportunities will be minimised.

Plan your trip at least six weeks in advance

Your Export Adviser will assist you to plan your visit and make contact with the Austrade office, state or territory government offices and Chambers of Commerce that can assist you.

One of the best investments you can make in a successful trip is ensuring your program is planned and arranged with in-country assistance. This will help you see the right agents and customers who will be briefed and screened for interest and suitability.

In planning your visit take note of holidays and religious festivals that occur at the time of your planned visit.

Where possible, when booking flexible flights that are scheduled to arrive early in the morning and depart in the evening. Always ensure you allow for additional travel time to and from airports if meetings run overtime or in countries where traffic can be unpredictable.

Do some background reading

First impressions are critical. If you have never visited that country before and don’t know much about it, go on the Internet and read from a range of sources. Find out something about the country and its way of life. Reflect on how you would view someone visiting Australia to do business with you, who has no idea of life in Australia.

A visit without follow up is pointless

Time and again highly prospective business meetings come to nothing without appropriate follow up. Make sure, within 48 hours of each appointment; you send an email thanking your contact for meeting with you, providing follow up information and noting if necessary that you will get back to them within a specific time period on further particular requests. This will leave a good impression and demonstrate that you are someone with whom business can be reliably done. It is also good to know when you intend to return to the market. That way you can finish your meetings with “Hope to see you again when I return in six months”. This gives a sense of commitment to the market from your potential customers.

Important websites to check:

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – www.smartraveller.gov.au – this website provides Top 10 Tips, recommendations and travel advisories for the countries you plan to visit. On the same website, you can also subscribe free of charge to an email alert service, providing the latest travel and consular advice on where you propose to travel.
  • Review the Austrade country profiles on the countries you propose to visit. These country profiles provide information on the current business situation and business culture.
  • Check your eligibility for the Australian Government’s Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme – talk to an EMDG Adviser about your entitlements under the scheme and what receipts you will need to keep. Make sure your company accountant is well briefed as well.

Don’t be rushed into an agreement

When prospective agents/distributors see your company can offer a market advantage, they may try to rush you into signing an agreement and lock you into an arrangement. Be very careful. Agreements are hard to modify and costly to break.

If possible, delay any agreement until you have returned to Australia and have considered the proposal. Consult your legal adviser. Match the proposed draft agreement with one that you consider best reflects your interests and always seek legal advice from your own legal provider should you be unsure about the agreement before signing it.

Checklist

  • Never finalise an agreement before visiting the market.
  • Try to visit 2-3 prospective customers, to give you a basis for comparison.
  • Make sure you allow enough time to lock in a well-balanced appointment program with the right people.
  • Review the checklist – and ensure you have your pricing and delivery times right to be able to meet commitments.
  • Prepare yourself so you know something of the country and how business is done – to present as being well informed.
  • Be ready to send a follow-up email within 48 hours, acknowledging the main points of the meeting and seeking the prospective customer/business associate’s response.

This information and more is available on the Austrade website https://bit.ly/2FKbhmc

For help with your exports, please do not hesitate to contact an Austrade TradeStart Adviser in your area https://bit.ly/2phjH9q remember we are here to help you grow your exports.

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