A few years ago I made the difficult decision to cease working with a client. I had started exploring opportunities for his company in a European country, visiting end-users, generating initial leads and connecting with potential partners. After making a couple of trips to Europe with him I made several recommendations to take the export project a step further. However, my client was determined to do business in Europe the same way he had in his home market in Australia.
In this instance, the best tactic would have been to partner with a European company that had prior experience responding to government tenders and marketing to buyers in that sector. Unfortunately, I was not able to get my point across to my client; he insisted visiting end-users. For this reason, I decided to terminate our working relationship.
To have any chance of success, businesses – particularly in the high-tech sector – need to partner with companies that are well established in the export market they want to enter. In Europe, doing direct sales involves creating a company, hiring people locally, and being well informed about local laws. Instead, a better approach, especially for new exporters, is to work with European partners or distributors to leverage their expertise, knowledge of the local market and market reach.
Define your ideal distributor profile
Before engaging with distributors or partners you need to define the ideal distributor profile for your business. Start by identifying the profiles of your previous distributors and looking at how they helped your business. To select an appropriate distributor for your business, you need to be very clear about which industry you are targeting and the type of clients associated with that particular industry.
Additional questions to keep in mind while creating your distributor profile:
- Are they a large company or a small business? Are they regional or nationally based?
- How broad is their product range?
- Do they sell to a network of resellers or directly to end-users?
- What profile do their sales reps have? Do they spend more time on the road or are they in the office preparing marketing campaigns?
Once you understand your customer profile, you will be in a good position to find distributors with this specific clientele in their portfolio as well as those who are already selling products that are complementary to yours. The other important consideration is what role you want the distributor to play for you. You should determine what tasks you want them to do for you in the market besides sales, such as after-sales service, repairs and training.
For more information on selecting distribution channels, download the related tools at http://exportia.com.au/downloads.
Above all, you should aim to work with European partners or distributors to leverage their expertise, knowledge of the local market and market reach.
This article written for the Summer 2015 issue of International Business Today by Christelle Damiens, managing director, Exportia Australia