::: Trade Talk :::
Trade Tips Part 5: Entering New Frontiers - Successful Trade Mission Participation
Cos Mamhunze, an International Trade Specialist at saibl's Johannesburg office, concludes his discussion on Trade Tips in the last part of this series of articles on international trade. This article was co-authored by Bongi Mbili, an International Trade Specialist at saibl's Johannesburg office.
Part 1: Trade Tips - Entering New Frontiers - The Key Steps >>>
Part 2: Trade Tips - The Entry Strategies >>>
Part 3: Trade Tips - The Risks >>>
Part 4: Responding to an Export Enquiry >>>
Most companies are slowly getting into the restive festive mood, and preparing for 2011. Those with an eye on export markets are already making decisions on which trade events to participate in next year. We are also busy putting together a saibl trade events calendar for next year.
In this article, we will give you tips that will help make your trade event participation a bit easier. We have attended and organized several trade missions and noticed that well planned participation generates good results, whereas ill-planned participation results in a waste of resources and time with the result that prospective international partners regard you as a 'don't-touch' kind of enterprise. We will focus on trade missions instead of trade exhibitions because, by their nature, the former are more compact and focused. saibl has also recently seen them generating better results.
Making a Decision
Questions such as: What is your strategic export plan? Which countries and markets are you targeting? Which products will you be showcasing? Do I have the budget for such a trade mission? etc. have to be answered truthfully.
If your strategic export plan is to start with neighbouring countries, then look at events that are covering those neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. There is no way you will be able to cover the entire continent and do it successfully.
Make sure all shareholders support your participation and that they have approved a budget for the trip. We have encountered some last-minute cancellations that were attributed to the fact that there was no buy-in from other shareholders in the first place and no approved budget for the trip.
If you are interested and ready to participate, then advise the event organizers and approach relevant institutions such as saibl and the Department of Trade and Industry for assistance and even cost-sharing (if eligible for the cost-sharing facility).
A well-informed and supported decision avoids last-minute cancellations that can embarrass saibl, our trade representatives and even the South African High Commissions with whom efforts saibl has established good rapport. Remember - your reputation is also at stake! The next time you wish to meet the foreign companies whose appointments you cancelled, they may not want to take you seriously. At all costs you should attempt to avoid damaging your own reputation with potential future markets.
Before the Trade Mission
--- Look at your budget. If you have cash-flow problems, it is advisable to sort them out first, rather than bailing out at the last minute when appointments have already been made. Make sure the budget is approved.
--- Company representative. Decide in advance who should be representing the company. A technical product would require a technical person to attend, and hence we have seen companies sending two people on a trade mission so that the marketing and technical areas are well-represented.
--- Dates and other events. Plan carefully by considering events such as religious holidays (e.g. Christmans and Ramadan), birthdays, family events, other local trade events, etc. that may impact on the potential success of your visit and meetings.
--- Investigate the market. To establish business practice, market make-up, import duties, restrictions and bilateral agreements in place.
--- Promote in advance. Find contact details of buyers of your product and start communicating with them before the trade visit. This involves talking to them and sending e-mails with details such as your company profile.\
--- Certification. Do you have relevant certificates, e.g. a SADC certificate of origin or a SABS certificate? Most importers in the SADC region insist on these certificates as proof that the product’s quality is guaranteed and that it can be competitive if it falls within the duty-free or low duty categories.
--- Visa application. Enquire whether you will require need a visa to enter the country and allow enough time for the visa application process.
--- Be clear in terms of what you really want to achieve. Are you looking for an agent, distributor or do you want to directly talk to retailers or end-users of your product?
--- Marketing tools. The format saibl has been using of late involves organizing workshops in the host countries, where each participating client is granted an opportunity to do presentations on their business and offers, to showcase their products, and have one-on-one meetings and site visits. Such a format means you have to prepare a succinct presentation, have well-packaged and adequate samples, and have brochures and business cards ready.
--- Dress code. Find out what the business dress code is for the market you are visiting and prepare accordingly.
--- Small things do matter. Develop and show interest in the foreign language, at least by mastering the basic greeting phrases. Make sure your passport is still valid and that you have your medical supplies.
During the Trade Mission
This is your time to shine and prove that you have made a careful decision and put time into planning for the trade mission. Show confidence when representing your company and your product.
Be punctual for scheduled meetings. In some cities, traffic is painstakingly slow. You will need to factor local conditions into your drive time.
Take this opportunity to take a leaf from fellow participants in the trade mission - you stand to learn valuable lessons.
Don't over-promise. Promise what you are capable of delivering, e.g. delivery time and terms. It is better to loose a prospective deal and maintain your integrity than trying to win all whilst loosing your integrity in the process.
Don’t rush to sign agreements! In the previous article, we used the soccer analogy and emphasized the need for composure. Invest more time and energy into knowing the company and the market landscape. Some businesses have rushed to sign exclusive distributorship arrangements and popped the champagne, but nothing happened thereafter. This is different from getting an order which you could confirm and release upon payment in advance.
Make notes during the meetings and make sure that you have contact details for all contacts that you meet during the mission. Follow-up is very important and you will need to take forward your discussions with the right person.
After the Trade Mission
Some companies go AWOL soon after making promises during trade missions. Consider the time and effort expended in preparing for participation in the trade mission. Also consider your reputation as a business.
You ought to follow up on all leads generated during the trade mission. We often encourage saibl clients to copy the saibl trade linkage specialist on correspondence with foreign buyers, so that we are kept in the loop and are able to follow up, should there be correspondence delays or other problems.
Be prepared for negotiations and counter-offers. The latitude to accommodate prospective customer's needs is dependent on issues such as the supply-demand scenario, the risk profile of the foreign buyer, your cash-flow position, and the risk profile of the foreign country.
We hope these tips will help you to enter new frontiers as you expand into the export market. We take this opportunity to wish you a blessed festive season, which is around the corner. 2010 has come and gone, and gone fast!
Bongi Mbili and Cos Mamhunze are seasoned Trade Specialists at SAIBL reachable at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
This article is Cos’ last contribution to the saibl Bulletin. Cos is moving to a ‘’sister’’ regional programme, also supported by USAID. For those interested in exporting to the US under AGOA, feel free to contact him.