A successful venture into the international marketplace requires establishment of goals, sound preparation, efficient implementation and early follow-up.
The following are prerequisites for successful planning and implementation of personal selling tools in your target foreign market. They apply whether one is undertaking a business trip, trade show or trade mission.
Remember, personal selling is a tool to help achieve the company’s marketing strategy. All initiatives need to be consistent with that strategy.
Successful implementation of personal selling tools in target markets
For each initiative, marketers must clearly define their goals and objectives.
The initiative may encompass a number of markets, and the objectives may differ from market to market. The research and the preparation prior to the initiative will depend on the objectives.
Identifying market opportunities on a business trip requires different preparation than a visit to negotiate a sales contract or to attend a trade show.
There may be a variety of objectives in each market. The company should ensure the timing and duration of the initiative allows the goals and objectives to be completed. If not, perhaps the goals of the initiative should be modified.
There are two primary components of any personal selling initiative; the program required to meet the objectives, and the logistics required to get to and from the market and to conduct business in the market.
Preparing your program for personal selling in your target foreign market
Program components include the following:
Contacts: Develop a list of contacts to meet with on the visit, mission or at the trade show.
Finalize meetings: Closer to departure, you should contact all prospects to finalize meetings. It is extremely important that times and places are clearly understood by both sides and that there is a way of getting in touch if plans change.
Business cards and marketing materials: Business cards and promotional materials describing the company (preferably in the language of the target country) should be prepared well in advance and any translations verified. If you wish to take samples or personal equipment (e.g., computers, audio-visual equipment), a carnet should be purchased through the Chamber of Commerce to ensure trouble-free passage through customs without duties being charged.
Study relevant cultural issues: As a business traveller, you should be familiar with business etiquette, practices and taboos in the target country.
Companies pursuing personal selling must absolutely ensure that their representatives are familiar with cultural nuances, commercial practices and business etiquette in the countries where they hope to do business.
Gifts: In many countries, it is customary to present small gifts to contacts as a token of appreciation. The purpose of these gifts should not be misunderstood. Some research is required to make sure they are appropriate.
Attitude: Attitude toward foreigners in the country. For example, are foreigners seen as suspicious, or are they welcomed?
Information: Background information on the country, history, politics, etc.
Planning your travel and in-market logistics
Logistical requirements will have a positive impact on your initiative if done properly, or they can be a distraction if there are problems:
Itinerary: Once you know the timing requirements of the program, you can work on itineraries and schedules. Where are your clients located? When are they available? What is the best way of meeting all of them? What connections are available between the home country and the target country or countries?
Hotel reservations: For business travellers, hotels are not just places to sleep. They are also places to do work and hold meetings. Make sure that accommodations are suitable for business purposes, especially if some meetings with clients have to be held at the hotel. Apart from price and availability, you should also check location and see about additional facilities, such as WiFi and meeting rooms.
Travel documents: You’ll need a valid passport to travel to most countries. Many countries also require a travel visa issued by their consulates. Health documents may be needed for entry into the target country and admission back into your own. Confirm visa and health requirements with the embassy of the target country or with your travel agent.
Currency: Where possible, make sure you take sufficient local currency for the trip. It is now possible to use international credit cards and bank cards in many countries, but this should be investigated before departure. Additional money can be carried in travellers’ cheques, although in many countries travellers’ cheques can only be exchanged in banks. If you’re carrying cash, U.S. currency is usually preferred to other currencies.
Travel conditions: The smart traveller will find out everything possible about travelling in the target country, including things like climate, normal business attire, local transportation (e.g., taxis, buses, rail), availability of translation services and normal business hours and national holidays.
Personal security: When travelling to any market, either domestic or international, make sure you understand the environment and avoid putting yourself in a situation that could affect your personal security.
Companies should ensure their employees are aware of the risks and should take steps to mitigate them.
For example, companies can obtain information on risks in the target market and purchase products such as hostage insurance.
Go with the flow in global markets
It is unlikely that all will go as planned. Meeting arrangements will not work, flights will be cancelled or hotel reservations will be lost. This can be frustrating and confusing, particularly if you do not speak the local language. Your ability to accept these problems, work around them and focus on the program objectives will determine the success of your visit to your target foreign market!
Did you ever have a time when your business visit in a target foreign market just didn’t turn out the way you’d planned? What happened, and what did you do to salvage the situation?