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Top 10 export sales mistakes!

Azaz Motiwala | March 16, 2005

The best reason to export a product or service is to globalise your company and prosper.

It can happen, but you will probably need to work on a whole new set of business attitudes and assumptions.

ExportIf you want to be successful in your export sales efforts, here is a checklist of mistakes to avoid.

Are you committing any/ all of the following 10 mistakes?

1. I have all kind of products to offer...

...all I need to hear is what my customer wants.

A businessman interested in exporting autoparts to the Orient told me he had the resources to furnish any automobile product a customer wanted.

I said, "That kind of thinking won't work."

He was taken aback, but persisted, "You don't get it. My company works with hundreds of suppliers. If a customer wants bearings, we can get it."

I responded, "You don't get it. The customers aren't supposed to lead us. We are supposed to lead the customers!"

This clearly came as a big surprise to him. Maybe to you, too. But this is the kind of thinking that succeeds.

Solution: 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 where they didn't even know they could go in terms of satisfaction, increased sales and profitability.

2. My product price is very competitive

Customers in the Middle East and other South African countries 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 is 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 that occasionally received international inquiries.

They determined the importance of the inquiries by the style of the corporate letterhead on which they received the query. Four-colour shiny graphics received 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. They generally use no more than about 10 words.

Remember, ostentation is out. Making things happen is in.

4. Let's export our product/ service to a bunch of foreign markets


Pick a product/ service and pick a market. Stick to it.

Put on your mental blinders and ignore distractions. Channel your energies and define the territory in which you are going to play.

It takes a lot of discipline to resist the scattershot approach to doing business and staying focused instead. But, after a while, the discipline becomes automatic.

Focus, focus, focus.

Persist, persist, persist!

5. I want to export my products but will not make any changes in it

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 colour that he wants, so long as it is black."

6. Let's respond to the customer's interest and 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!

7. I know my product/ service works well in India; I am certain it will fly overseas

Just because your product/ service is needed here in the India, it does not mean it will be well-received in a foreign country.

Always check with either your prospective customer (let them review it at no charge) or a local foreign consulate to see if they can help determine whether your service makes sense in their country.

8. I can't afford a trip to visit my customers. Besides, I wouldn't know my way around

You can't afford not to meet with prospective customers because, without face-to-face contact, there will be no business.

Of course, there is no need to travel overseas until you are associated with at least one importer/ buyer in that country.

Once you are associated with customer, ask if you can visit them and if they can spare the time to assist you on your first visit.

You will be surprised at how gracious people really are, and how eagerly they welcome the opportunity to show you around their native land!

Customers matter. I can't repeat it often enough. The personal meeting is the best way to demonstrate your professional commitment.

9. We appointed an exclusive agent, yet didn't get any sales

When exporting a product, it is smart to ask a distributor what they anticipate selling in the first year.

Request that their first order count for 20% of the anticipated volume, pre-paid, which allows them the opportunity to have exclusivity.

Expect the balance of projected sales to be ordered during the rest of the year (preferably in quarterly periods), with each subsequent order minimally the size of their first one.

This allows you to monitor and exercise good control over the distributor's sales.

10. When our domestic sales slide, we should work hard at getting foreign sales

Going global is a commitment, not something you work at one day and forget about the next.

It is an investment in your company's future that deserves your consistent attention regardless of how well you are doing domestically. If you have the patience and perseverance, your chances of success will be excellent.

If you are open to changing the way you think about global marketing, you have already made a good beginning.

Now, you are ready to achieve success in export markets.

Azaz Motiwala ( is a strategic marketing consultant who has assisted numerous companies.

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: Beautyfull Message

The Message covers a good overview of Mistakes that exporters geneally commit not knowing the impact it would have on their growth. Its nice and ...


Sub: Good article

This article has indeed given me idea on my past mistake.thanks azaz. chandresh manwani

Posted by Chandresh

Sub: RE:

Really a nice and usefull article.Keep publishing more article on marketing.

Posted by Mansukhbhai


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