Before 2018, GS-Tek had only received a few inquiries from Southeast Asia from their website. The company didn’t have any traction in those markets. To stay competitive in their field, GS-Tek was eager to expand into new regions. They joined Export Delaware on a business trip to Singapore and Malaysia in the Spring of 2018, and after that, everything changed. Read about their experience here.
Meeting Face-To-Face is Key
GS-Tek is a manufacturer of chromatography columns and accessories located in Newark, Delaware. They provide analytical scientists with the products and tools needed for innovative scientific research worldwide.
This Delaware small business is not new to exporting. They have traveled around the world and built a global business. In 2014 the company received the US President’s E-Award, which is the highest recognition any US entity may receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of US exports.
GS-Tek achieved a lot of export success in Asia, Mexico, and other parts of the world. Now it was time to expand into Southeast Asia. Zack Ji, the company’s founder and president, admits, “We had very limited exposure in this part of the world. Some people found us on the internet, but we never had a face-to-face talk.”
They jumped on the opportunity to join the State of Delaware on the first trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia. “The mission helped us build relationships,” says Ji. “We wanted to build distributor confidence so they would feel comfortable representing our company.”
Since the first trip, Ji has traveled back to the region three times and started developing additional business in Vietnam and Thailand. He would have visited more before the pandemic. “The competition is big, and we need to invest more time,” says Ji. Regardless, the groundwork he laid before 2020 is beginning to pay off. In Malaysia, they’ve received more inquires than ever before and are starting to make sales. This year, the company expects to sell $100,000 in Malaysia alone. “When it safe, we want to go back to see our customers in Malaysia,” says Ji. “If we can invest more time there and see them face-to-face, we will get up to half a million dollars in sales in that market.”
Building Trust and Confidence with Overseas Partners
The Harvard Business Review says that “Trust is the social glue that holds business relationships together.” We live in a day and age where people constantly question the government, the media, and their business relationships. The more you can build trust, the more the relationship will be profitable and beneficial to both parties. Here are four strategies to do this in Southeast Asia.
Meeting Face-to-Face: Arguably, this is the best way to develop trust with international partners, especially if there is a language barrier. Experts say that 70% percent of all communication is nonverbal. Email, phone calls, WhatsApp, and even video calls limit your body language, therefore compromising the quality of your interactions. It’s essential to lay the groundwork for long-term business relationships in a face-to-face setting (if possible).
Showing Respect: In Southeast Asia, your business reputation hinges on respect. Your prospects are looking to see if you respect their culture and values. In addition, they will do their research and see how respected you are by your peers. They are looking for “red flags.” If they find any, you’ve lost any potential for a partnership.
Being Transparent: Business is business. At some point, two parties will come to an agreement, and money will change hands. That doesn’t mean you can’t be open and honest along the way. If it appears you are hiding information or covering up important details, it will poison the business relationship, and your prospect will no longer trust you. The more you are honest and open, the better the relationship will develop.
Consistency: Customers are quick to catch inconsistencies, whether it’s in your marketing material, your website, or in the information you share verbally. The more you can demonstrate a consistent, trustworthy approach, the better a long-term relationship will be. This is true for follow-up as well. Stick to one method of communication, whether it’s email or WhatsApp, and provide timely responses to any inquiries raised from your international prospect.
Now that the world is opening back up and international travel resumes keep these tips in mind so you can deepen your relationships and build trust — and business — globally.