The international challenge: conducting trade internationally means keeping one's promises.
The adventure is a challenge, but it can also be fun. Yes, I love what I am doing. It is energizing when I look at the international market and see the vast opportunities that are available to me and my company.
But, clearly, one should be aware that he or she does not just go at it and enter the market without a plan. It is in developing these plans where one will find the biggest challenge today.
BEST LAID PLANS
If you ask them, most companies will say they have a sales plan to sell internationally. Unfortunately, that plan may not be any more detailed than the notion that "We are going to increase our sales."
That notion could be based upon the observation that "We are getting all these calls and inquiries from the international market and we can sell a lot of equipment."
The optimism may be reinforced by the notions that "We have a unique product that everyone wants to buy; we have a mission statement and we have a vision."
With confidence like this, why should they not feel that they can sell a bunch of equipment (or materials) to the international market?
Exporting goods or equipment made in the United States has become increasingly complicated as well as very structured, with the need to follow several new regulations.
An export plan must reflect how prepared and committed the company is to the export market. Not only is it not enough simply to have a mission statement or a vision statement, but it is not enough for equipment to simply be CSA or UL-listed. In the case of equipment, it may also need to meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z245 and ANSI Safety standards for the international market.
Most European countries are requiring CE (compliance engineering) certification for equipment to ensure it meets requirements related to voltages, metric measurements and languages for signage and accompanying literature.
But these few requirements could add months to a purchase order if a company does not have the infrastructure in place to deal with them. Not being prepared for these steps falls short of being ready to do business in Europe or in other parts of the world.
Conducting trade in the international market can become difficult when one considers that the challenges one faces in these arenas are as numerous as the opportunities.
What can be lacking from American-based businesses trading internationally can be as simple as goals and objectives, but more often it is a 100-percent commitment.
When planning to export, a company needs to ask and to answer the following questions:
1. Do we have personnel with international experience? If so, in what countries?
2. What are the business practices in international business with which we need to become familiar?
3. Who are our customers; what are their profiles?
4. How committed can we be to this strategy?
5. Why do we want to sell our products internationally?
6. Is this goal consistent with our other company goals?
7. What is our prior experience in the international market?
8. What products are we attempting to sell into each market?
9. Are we learning from our international experiences?
10. How much time has management and key personnel committed to the plan?
11. Do we have bilingual and bicultural personnel? Are they in the field as well as in the office?
Key questions affect not only sales and administration, but may also touch upon the production process as well. Key considerations for the production department can include whether sufficient capacity exists, whether trying to serve international markets will hamper serving the United States market and whether the company is addressing the added costs associated with exporting.
It has been my experience since I began selling internationally that most companies think they are ready, but only a few of them find themselves truly able to answer the above questions--and thus become true international players.
In serving international customers, my goal and objective is to keep the promise that we make to our international inquiries, prospects and customers.
One of my professors in my MBA program in international business once said: "The first experience the customer has with the company is the most important part of the process."
At this early point, the customer is shaping his or her image of a company. Are they dependable and reliable?
I carry a mental plan in place of what needs to be done and continuously tweak, twist and change it. This has become second nature to me.
As someone engaged in international trade, I am doing what I always wanted to do at this point in my life. That is working internationally, which suits my passion for life, learning about our neighbors and cultures and building relationships for life. I feel like an ambassador.
Anyone in this position has the opportunity to develop and promote business and build relationships with the great people of this world.
The nuances of doing business, sharing food, learning cultures and meeting people from throughout the world offers definite challenges, but the opportunities and the rewards can be bountiful.
The author is international sales director for Marathon Equipment Co. and NexGen Baling Systems, Vernon, Ala. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Title Annotation:||2006 INTERNATIONAL TRADING SUPPLEMENT|
|Comment:||The international challenge: conducting trade internationally means keeping one's promises.(2006 INTERNATIONAL TRADING SUPPLEMENT)|
|Article Type:||Personal account|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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