4 tips to break into a new overseas market like an insider

by: Christelle Damiens

There are two different levels of success in an overseas market, there’s a superficial level of success, initial leads, a few sales, a distributor has started selling in a given country for 50K$ of products.
On the other side of the scope, there is being truly successful in a market. In my view, it means securing significant and recurring business, building strategic partnerships, knowing and selling to the major players in your target industry, and building your local team of talents.
Between the two ends of the scope, there is a huge gap in terms of revenue. In the first instance, we talk about 50K$. At the other end of the scope, we talk about a multi-million dollar market.
There is also a huge gap in terms of the approach you take in that market. In the superficial approach, there is not intimate knowledge of the given country. If the flow of sales were to stop, the exporter would not know why and they would not be able to do anything about it.
As an exporter, and for us at Exportia, we want our customers to focus on building an intimate knowledge of the market. We want them to know the ins and outs of that market, this is the only way to scale in an international market and reach multi-million dollars in sales.
Here are four tips to reach significant success in an overseas market and break into that market like an insider.

Tip 1: Build your local trusted network of peers. When I target a specific European market for one of our customers, I make a point of really getting to know one of my peers locally and get their in-market perspective on things. For example, I am usually the European Sales Director for my customers. At European trade shows, I will reach out to other Sales Directors of non-competitive brands, to get their take on the market. This is also how I am building my network to recruit later down the track on behalf of my customers. When I build these relationships, I am genuine about them. I am really interested in them as people. It’s important not just to be there to fish information and be a pain in their eyes. It is a subtle exercise because depending on the cultural background of the person you are introducing yourself to, you cannot expect to build instant rapport. It can take several contacts and years to build trust. In other words, don’t expect to walk in a show, introduce yourself to a German peer, you’ve never met before, and expect him or her to share with you their market insights in 15 minutes.

Tip 2: Cross-check information. To make sound decisions as a general rule, I like to cross-check information from different sources. This is where your trusted network of peers is so important. Sometimes we fall into the trap of cross-checking a fact or a perception with someone we know is just going to be nice and agree with us. It’s always best to get persons from different backgrounds to cross-check. For example, I need to due diligence a distribution partner, I like to talk to them directly, check with some peers that also work with them as distributors, ask a key customer how they find working with them, Then I can make my own judgment about this distributor.

Tip 3: Be humble. In January, one of my customers sent me to Japan to assess and set-up a new partner on their behalf, even though my main focus for them is Europe.I had some preliminary cultural knowledge about Japan from my studies and Japanese literature. But I really set the intention to be humble while there and mainly absorb, listen, and learn. Humility is the safest attitude in international business. Ultimately it will take you many lifetimes to build an intimate knowledge of every single international market. The only way to succeed repeatedly is to be a learner and for that, you need to be humble.

Tip 4: Embrace cultural diversity in your own business. Australia has a large population of skilled migrants. It is sad to say that a lot of these skilled migrants often struggle to get jobs at the level of their qualifications or experience. Exporters, who want to succeed in a specific market need to surround themselves with talents from this country, to give them that insider edge. It will reinforce the trust that your overseas customer has in your business. You will demonstrate to them that you are investing in providing them better support by bridging a cultural gap.

If you still wonder how you can implement these four tips to succeed in international markets, reach out to me. If you have found other tips to break into a new market like an inside, I would love to hear about it and share it with our exporters’ community.

Do you have any questions about scaling your business in Europe and setting-up your sales processes to grow internationally? Get in touch with me for an evaluation call. Just email me on christelle.damiens@exportia.com.au.


About Christelle:

Christelle turned her back to a successful career as a sales representative in the corporate world in Europe. When she moved to Australia in 2006, she started Exportia to share the wealth of her Europe-wide sales experiences for a small business as an export manager and as a sales representative at IBM in Paris.

“Having taken dozens of Australian businesses to Europe, I personally know the difficulty for a small business to significantly grow their sales in the European market. It is a very diverse market and small businesses often don’t know where to start. Small business owners are often caught up with running their business and with their domestic market to be able to allocate enough time to the European market. Lowering the risk for small businesses and guiding them to maximise the export sales results are what drives us at Exportia.”

Christelle has also encapsulated her learning into a book called “Ready Tech Go! – A definitive guide to exporting Australian technology to Europe”. French native speaker, fluent in German and English, with Basic Italian and Hindi.