The best reason for exporting a product or service is to globalize your company and prosper in the millennium. It can happen for you, but you will probably need to evolve a whole new set of business attitudes and assumptions. If you want to achieve success with your export sales efforts, then check yourself on whether you are currently committing the following ten deadly sins to global sales failure:

1. "I have a variety of food products to offer. All I need to hear is what my customer wants." An American businessman interested in exporting food items to the Orient told me that he had the resources to furnish literally any American food product that a customer wanted. I said, "That type of thinking won't work." He was taken aback, but persisted, "You don't get it. My company works with hundreds of suppliers. If your customer wants chocolate covered seaweed, we can get it for you." I responded, "You don't get it. The customers aren't supposed to lead us. We're supposed to lead the customers!" This clearly came as a big surprise to him, and maybe to you, too -- but this is the kind of thinking that succeeds.

Focus and lead your customer like they have never been led before. Have them beg for your bundle of clear-cut product or service ideas. Take them to where they didn't even know they could go in terms of satisfaction, increased sales and profitability.

2. "My product is really low in price." Customers outside the U.S. pay attention to packaging first, quality next and price last. Set your priorities accordingly. Create a package design or service concept that speaks for itself, and quality that leaves no room for competitive comparison. From there it's only a matter of details to wrap up a sale.

3. "That looks like a good foreign lead. Let's respond to it!" I knew of a small company who occasionally received international inquiries. They determined the importance of the inquiries by the styling of their corporate letterhead. Four-color shiny graphics received the utmost attention. Plainly designed stationery was literally thrown out. You can imagine the professional consequences of this willingness to be impressed by snappy presentations at the expense of substance. Little did they know that most large, sophisticated and extremely busy companies typically communicate on whatever piece of paper they have at the moment and generally use no more than about ten words. Ostentation is out -- making things happen is in.

4. "Let's try exporting our service to a bunch of foreign markets." Wrong! Pick a service and pick a market. Then stick to it. You need to put on your mental blinders and ignore distractions, channel your energies, and define the territory in which you're going to play. It takes a lot of discipline to resist the scattershot approach to doing business and stay focused, but after awhile the discipline becomes automatic. Focus, focus, focus. Persist, persist, persist.

5. "I'm really interested in exporting my products but I'll be darned if I am going to make any changes in it." You must tailor your product to meet the needs of the customer. Forcing a customer to buy what you have available with little or no willingness on your part to make improvements is not just insensitive but downright hostile. Marketing has come a long way since the days of Henry Ford, who said, "The customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black."

6. "Let's respond to the customer's interest and then wait a couple of weeks to follow-up." Put yourself in the customer's shoes. Would you want to be treated that way? Service brings satisfaction and satisfaction brings trial orders followed by repeat orders. Anything less than immediate and consistent service only wastes your time -- and that of your prospective customer!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurel Delaney (LaurelDelaney.com) is the founder of GlobeTrade.com and the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.