In our global society, exporting your products and services can be critical to the overall success of any small business. To grow and scale to the next level, your company needs to access new customers and markets, and they very well may be overseas.
To export, you need the guidance, expertise, and contacts of those who have actually been where you are now. Export Delaware is a state division, run like a business. Export Delaware and our team of international trade representatives have decades of export experience working in companies just like yours. Today, our program is one of the best state programs in the country, delivering substantial sales for our small business community.
We have developed a tiered phase approach to international business development with our team of experts around the world. Our process has helped nearly 100 Delaware small businesses enter markets overseas and secure new customers through this approach. In each Export Delaware business trip, we:
- Identify target customers
- Screen and Vet the target customers
- Translate your sales presentation to the local language
- Arrange business meetings for you with customers
This article will break down our formula for success and share updates about the business programs/trade missions that are happening right now.
Phase 1: Exploring Potential Target Customers
Can you name 30 companies in France who could be a potential customer? Probably not. How long would it take you or your team to research this on your own? Too long.
That’s where our international trade representatives (“trade reps”) come in. Our trade reps live and work in foreign markets. They have considerable private sector experience in Delaware industries. They are life science professionals, chemical engineers, food industry executives, and professional international business sales and marketing consultants. They have a vast network and are able to correctly identify potential target customers for you that will increase your sales.
After you are accepted to participate in a trade mission, we will set up a virtual meeting between you and the Delaware trade office in that country. During this meeting, you will discuss your products and services — and most importantly — what makes your product different than your competitor’s. After this initial meeting, our trade reps will develop a long list of potential target customers for you. We will also discuss the process of identifying distributors, if applicable.
Our trade representative team in France, led by Christelle Maffre of OCO Global, has just delivered the target lists to five Delaware companies participating in the trade mission. Each Delaware business has received a target client list of 20-30 companies. These are companies located in France and require the products and services that each Delaware participant can provide. The spreadsheet provided includes information about the company, including location, size, and a brief description of what they do.
Phase 2: Vetting the Target Customers
The next step is to vet the customers on the target list. Now it’s time to review the list to make sure we are moving in the right direction. Have the appropriate customers been identified? Do you see your company providing the perfect solution to these customers? Would you be confident walking into a meeting with them? In this phase, Export Delaware works with you to narrow down the target list to about ten companies you would like to meet.
Now, the expertise of our trade reps comes into play. They work their magic to set up these one-on-one meetings for you. These meetings are with decision-makers or C-Suite level leadership. It can be tough to get into these doors, especially if you don’t speak the local language.
Typically, our reps set up 6-8 one-on-one meetings with the right people in your target companies and begin to nurture the relationship on your behalf.
Phase 3: Translating your Sales Presentation
The majority of Delaware businesses offer highly technical products. In order to really succeed in a market, Export Delaware translates all sales presentations into the local language, if needed.
Phase 4: Meeting the Target Customers
This phase is the fun part — where you get to do what you do best — pitch your product. Typically, we travel to the foreign country and meet face-to-face with potential customers. Due to COVID-19, instead of traveling internationally, we are hosting these meetings via Zoom for now.
The best part of this phase is that you don’t have to do it alone. Our trade reps, and Export Delaware staff, join you in these meetings. We even have interpreters if needed. We often help facilitate the conversation, which sets the foreign customer at ease, making them more receptive to you.
So far, in 2020, we have found that virtual meetings have proven to be quite effective. For example, Alexander Bothman, from our trade team in Sweden and Denmark, has set up several one-on-one virtual meetings for our Delaware companies already. Everyone participating hops on Zoom, and the sessions take on a similar agenda as they would if they were in person. Either our in-country trade representative or the Director of Export Delaware participates in every call to facilitate the conversation and assist where needed.
The meetings that occur as part of the trade mission are the first step in a long customer relationship. Many of our Delaware small businesses plan to travel and visit their new customer contacts when it is safe to do so.
What Makes Our Process Different
As international business development or sales professionals, you are always looking for new ways to meet customers and distributors worldwide. It can be challenging. You may have tried trade shows, which are great ways to connect with new customers but come with a big price tag. However, trade shows can’t guarantee that you get one-on-one meetings with customers. You may meet nearly a hundred people and get their business cards; but may only get a few minutes of their time on the trade show floor. Hard work and considerable advance positioning goes into securing meetings with top foreign customers.
That’s why we execute our trade missions with our proven approach. We know the best way to guarantee sales is to have those one-on-one meetings with decision-makers. This process of vetting potential customers and nurturing the relationship with our international trade reps’ support has proven to be very effective.
“Excellent services provided by Export Delaware for qualifying and matching the right contacts in Ireland. The institutions we met in Ireland have the right institutional balance (city government, academia, industry, business, national agencies) and technological competencies (smart technology, innovation, research) for potential long-term growth.”
– Startup Company in Newark, Delaware
How You Can Get Involved
We host multiple trips per year. The next virtual business trip will take place in March 2021 to the United Arab Emirates. Several spots are still available on this mission, and we invite you to apply to join us here.
In 2021 we plan to take several international business trips to the following countries: France, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Chile, and the UAE. These business trips will follow the same four-phase approach we outlined in this article. If you are interested or would like more information and how you can participate, please reach out to us at Export@Delaware.gov.