An April 2002 report, "Easing Export Headaches," by Forrester Research, a technology-research firm in Cambridge, Mass., indicates 55% of the executives surveyed believe the Net will be vital to their future export strategy. Are you ready? The first clue in getting started is to develop your in-house export dream team.
As you prepare for this new development, you must remember this important point: success in exporting is directly related to a company-wide commitment. That company-wide commitment involves you alone or, as in the case of a large corporation, the executive committee, finance, operations, marketing and sales, logistics, research and technology.
Once you recognize the resources you have available and what it takes to export your product or service, you prepare a list of what is required from each of these functional areas of your company and present the list to the person who is willing to be a part of your export team.
Who do you look for? Someone who has great salesmanship qualities, persistence, an interest in international matters, bi- or multi-lingual language capabilities, cultural empathy, good writing and speaking abilities and pays attention to detail. If you find part of most of this in a person, grab him/her!
From each department you might need a person to assist you on an as-needed basis, or devote 10% of their time all the time or one-half day a week for a full year. Whatever it takes, the individual has to know what will be required from him/her over the course of time, understand the export process and how each member's tasks fit into the overall export process. Don't be afraid to get their commitment, preferably in writing, so they will be there for you on an as-needed basis.
My recommendation is to get each department person to set aside one hour each day just to work on an international sales strategy. It doesn't matter if there are no sales pending, what is critical is to arrange a structured amount of time that requires discipline, commitment and exchange of information. It gives everyone the feeling of importance and team spirit which is critical for the growth and prosperity of the company.
As you work with your export team, they need to be trained as you go along. If you are a novice exporter, they learn as you learn but the point is to get their input as often as possible and insist they execute their portion of the plan. Here is a general idea of what to expect from each member of your export team along with additional clues to get you global:
8 Clues To Get You Global
1. The Executive Committee: they serve as a sounding board for your updates but are primarily interested in knowing what is needed to operate successfully in the global marketplace. Always go in on your meetings with the notion of making huge requests to ensure you walk out with at best, with what you know you need for certain. Clue: try your in-house committee for advice or if you are a one-person shop, set up your own independent council that includes noted academics, consultants and other experts in global trade.
2. The Marketing/Sales Staff: these people are original thinkers and need your advice on how to be creative in marketing your product or service overseas without confusing or offending your customer. They need an international marketing map and can use their domestic one as a model. Clue: try GlobeTrade.com (http://www.globetrade.com) for a one-stop-global-shop consulting service.
3. Logistics: how will they get your product or service to another country? They must understand export documentation as it relates to shipping, insurance, customs, compliance, method of payment, duties, tariffs and international laws. A freight forwarder might be an option, not the answer. Clue: try web-based Logistics.com (http://www.logistics.com), Descartes (http://www.descartes.com), Exel (http://www.exel.com) or Inttra (http://www.inttra.com). For smaller cargo, there's always UPS (http://www.ups.com) who claims they are the only direct express nonstop service between the U.S.A. and China.
4. Operations: they need to know how many widgets you are going to sell, for how long, how often and within what time period. If changes are required in the production of the widget, they need to know that well in advance of the customer's deadline so they can coordinate procurement of raw materials and schedule a production run in a timely manner. Operations people need no outside help here -- this is where they shine and usually rise to the occasion. Clue: try Celarix (http://www.celarix.com) for supply-chain visibility and connectivity.
5. Finance: how will your company get paid on overseas sales? The finance people need to know. They must understand international payment methods and terms both offline and online. Your own bank's international department can help here. Clue: try SurePay (http://www.surepay.com), PayPal (http://www.paypal.com) or WorldPay (http://www.worldpay.com) for credit/debit transactions.
6. Research: who will determine which market is the best market to export your product or service? Clue: try the Department of Commerce (http://www.ita.doc.gov/index.html), SBA (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/OIT/) or The U.S. Commercial Service (http://www.usatrade.gov/).
7. Technology: these people need to adopt a new crop of Net-based apps that dramatically transform the export operations of the organization. Clue: try Bolero (http://www.bolero.com), NextLinx (http://www.nextlinx.com), ClearCross (http://www.clearcross.com) or Vastera (http://www.vastera.com).
8. Cultural: who will be respectful of local culture and how will that be conveyed on your site? Adapting and translating fast-changing content for multiple countries' markets can be challenging. These people must become familiar with developed software that helps automate the workflow of language translation. Clue: try Uniscape (http://www.uniscape.com), Worldlingo (http://www.worldlingo.com), ConveySoftware (http://www.conveysoftware.com) or Welocalize (http://www.welocalize.com).
All other team members, such as the legal or customer service departments, must learn to coordinate their activities to ensure the smooth flow of the overall export operation.
Your export team is just that, a team and should never work in isolation of one another. That's why the set-aside time is important for keeping each person up-to-date with the hope of identifying the broad as well as the detailed issues concerning your export transaction.
You now have developed your crack export team and have clues on how to get global. Whether you have strengthened yourself for this task or have a staff of 20 to utilize -- you should be able to implement your first export sale. Good luck!
Take the first step (it's free).
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