The wrong way“I visited Cancun once on a cruise. I know Mexico.”
“Don’t ship something internationally without talking to me. This export thing is easy except for the logistics. You better have an expert or you’re going to lose your shirt.”
“My friends cousin knows everyone in India. He’s in Mumbai. You know that’s how business is done there. It’s all connections.” (Don’t laugh! I’ve heard this one. Truth be told I met him in Mumbai)
Too many folks undertake a global sales initiative focused on a narrow element of the execution. Not only does strategy get shortchanged (although shortchanged implies that one was developed in some form which is often inaccurate) but the resources expended on the transactional details are extensive.
The “perfect” wayBased on a strategic plan you allocate a percentage of your biz dev resources to an international initiative. You map out a 5 year commitment and you begin to conduct extensive research and establish the internal infrastructure required to support the export sales as they grow. You develop a channel strategy and align the effort with the broader corporate objectives. You develop expertise in diverse areas including:
- International marketing
- Channel management
- Risk management
- Government relations
The real wayIt’s not a perfect world. I get that. So here’s what happens. One of your domestic customers moves overseas and asks you to support them. Or maybe a foreign distributor approaches you at a trade show and later brings you a project. Either way you sort of stumble into it. You may go grudgingly, or maybe with some eagerness. But either way you go where the deal was, and you concentrate on transactional aspects of the business.
Then a year later that happens again, and several months later, yet again. Now you are selling into several markets – and it all developed on an ad hoc basis.
At this point you’re thinking there may be potential. Great. After all a Feb ’12 Michigan State study found that “90% of companies already exporting want to expand their markets.”
But what you’re not thinking, and perhaps even unaware of is what will torpedo your growing export initiative.
- You’re only guessing where to go
- You almost dread orders because the hassles of shipping and L/Cs consume so much time
- You have no clue about the FCPA and your personal criminal liability
- You probably never even heard of BIS
- You send your distributors, reps or agents pdfs of your American English, 8.5X11” data sheets
- You’re too busy to travel to far flung markets for individual orders
These probably seem like minor points – particularly as you battle your overflowing email box. After all, the mere fact that you’ve actually launched internationally puts you well ahead of the vast majority of your peer companies. That’s true. So your global sales effort is superb compared to the norm….while it’s poor vs. an absolute standard. Do you honestly find satisfaction in that? Don’t mean to bruise feelings, but it’s true.
Professional or amateurSo here’s the question. Are you more interested in breakout business success or self-congratulatory affirmations that your company is unique? If some specific work could help transform your program from mediocre to superb, would you want to do it? If simple steps could dramatically mitigate your risks or slash your tax exposure, would you want to take them? And if actually tackling the difficult challenges of internationalizing your marketing and proactively managing channel would elevate your program to amazing levels – especially if someone could do much of it for you – would you pull the trigger? Are you willing to embrace an holistic approach to international business development even if it feels mildly overwhelming?
Or are you content to respond to surveys and chat people up at parties – asserting that you and your company are on the bleeding edge of globalization despite your “accidental” approach?
If you’re serious about growing your global sales for all the right reasons, contact Consilium Global Business Advisors. We’re not about ego massage….we’re about quickly guiding your international business through the maze to help take it to an amazing level.