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Ten Tips: Translating Export Inquiries into Incremental Sales

By: Greg Seminara,Export Solutions

Export managers are overwhelmed with phone calls and emails from companies desiring to sell their brands. Some proposals are worth evaluating, as we all seek incremental sales in new countries. Other requests originate from diverters or  "time wasters" who do not have sufficient capabilities or financing to commercialize your brand. Export Solutions has completed several projects with brands looking to streamline the process of filtering international representation requests. Listed below are our ten tips for efficiently identifying serious inquiries from potential partners.

1. List Current Distributors on your Web Site
This practice provides potential customers and consumers a local contact for your brand.
It also discourages non productive calls from other distributors from that country from contacting you.
Distributor representation information is in the public domain, so web publication does not breach any confidentiality issues.
2. Export Partner Philosophy Statement
Create a standard letter explaining your criteria for selecting new partners.
Suggested text should include comments like" Brand X is available in 12 countries and is a leader in the Y segment. We are looking for established local distributors in certain countries to participate in the next chapter of our growth. Candidates should maintain a successful track record pioneering other international brands and offer a complete portfolio of importation, supply chain, key  account sales, and in store coverage services."

3. Distributor Candidate Data Sheet
A one page template captures core information from the candidate. This template can also be web based and appear on the "contact" section of your web site. Key inputs include
years in business, company size, web site, number of employees, and current brands represented. Reference contacts are critical. A sample Export Distributor Data Sheet can be located at the bottom of the Export Tips section of the Export Solutions web site

4. First Response: Send Philosophy Statement & Distributor Data Sheet
Send your philosophy statement and distributor data sheet as an initial response to all unsolicited phone and email inquiries. Instruct the candidate to review the philosophy statement and complete the data sheet if they feel that there is a match with their capabilities and your companies export strategy.
Inform them that someone from your export department will contact them once the data sheet has been 100 % completed. A key learning is that unqualified or "suspicious" candidates will not complete a data sheet.

5. Post "Distributor Wanted" List
The export page on your web site should list countries where you are searching for a partner.
This listing will encourage inquiries from target countries and help you "fill in the white space" in your export coverage map.

6. Reference Check Promising Candidates
My first step is to visit a distributors web site. The second stop is to review references supplied from
other brands on his data sheet. References provided listing contacts of export managers for other leading brands is always a positive indication. A credit check makes sense, particularly in emerging markets.

7. Watchout # 1- Candidate has no Web Site
This indicates that the distributor or entrepreneur is small or is possibly making claims that are erroneous or misleading. Candidates who refuse to provide references from other brands represented also should be avoided.

8. Watchout # 2- All About Low Prices
Warning bells go off from inquiries from companies urgently  focused on obtaining your export price list.
I get suspicious of international distributors volunteering  to pick up product at your factory or those who prefer English language product even when their native language is different.

9. Due Diligence Questions
What would the distributor launch plan look like if you agreed to sell to him ?
What are the local category dynamics ? What does the price calculation look like ?
Can the candidate share a success story for another brand from your country ?

10. Invite Serious candidates to your Headquarters
The preferred option is to visit a distributor in his home market to see his operation. This is not always possible, particularly for small or remote countries. A visit by a pre-screened candidate signals interest and initiative on their part.

Export Solutions distributor database covers 5,300 distributor in 93 countries. This serves as a quick reference tool to check the validity and credentials of a potential distributor candidate.