Monday, April 2, 2012

Export Broker: Adventures in the Trade " The Sales Department"

Brokering deals, what I specialize in my business, can sometimes be dull as well as exciting.  Regardless of the day to day events I always learn something new. A couple of weeks ago I had a Central American client who was interested in a product, the client had specifically stated that she wanted the product to be manufactured in the United States. Now, I am an advocate for U.S. companies exporting their products but I honestly had nothing to do with this request, for whatever the reason this client wanted her products to bear the "Made in the U.S.A" stamp.  I go about doing my normal research,  after a couple of days I narrowed it down to a couple of companies that had the product.  After narrowing the list I started to make phone calls. This is where I made my mistake, and I relate it to you so you avoid it. Once I started calling I usually contacted the Sales Departments... wrong answer. These Sales departments are ruthless, and obscuring the truth seems not to be an issue. However many of them, specially with other small companies, are just way out of their league when it comes to exporting.  They usually don't have the knowledge or the decision making authority to obligate the company to an export deal. I wasted about a week doing this with little feedback, almost no information to give my client and as far away from the deal as I started.  I changed tactics and started researching  the leadership of these small companies, you will be surprised how much info you can find online.  I started contacting V.Ps and Owners and the answers and I got were way more helpful.  Some of the manufacturers that I contacted, companies known for their U.S. products, were even made in the U.S. at all.  I received an answer stating that " our products are Chinese made but we distribute in the U.S" now talk about useful information! I am still working on the deal, but now we are finalizing details of a trade rather than on the initial market research stage. Here are some tips for your own search:

1. If contacting a large supplier, contact the sales department first. However, double check absolutely everything that the department tells you. Ask about their exporting history and for point of contact  information of officers if the company exporting history is flimsy.

2. If contacting a small business or supplier, contact the officers directly.  Ask about the exporting history and on what terms they would be willing to conduct an export if no previous history.

3. Double check the answers you receive! There is nothing worse than presenting false information to your client. 

4. Be prepared to answer numerous questions, make sure you understand the requirements of your client, the regulations that will govern the trade, the terms of your client,  request of samples if necessary, etc. You are the expert for both your client and the supplier.

5. Stay positive, sometimes the deals fall through, The details might not be favorable or the client loses interests, there are a million reasons for the deal to go bad. Don't dwell on it, learn from the experience and move on to your next deal.

As always, look forward to your comments.