Exportia Lab: How to beat the slower sales during the European Summer season
Welcome to the June Exportia Lab. In June, we are going to talk about how June is a slower month for conducting business in Europe. It is the start of another European Summer and so there’s always a business slow down period in Europe, as everybody takes their Summer holidays, so it’s a good time to do a number of things.
My name is Christelle Damiens most of you know me. With 20 years of sales experience in Europe, I have a business track record of achieving multi million euros of sales for Australian SMEs in the high tech sector. Exportia is currently managing about 75 international distributors for our customers and we are focused on achieving their first million euros in sales for those companies. My background is European and I worked for 20 years in the IT sector of a large Corporation managing key client accounts. In 2006 I started my business Exportia in Adelaide focusing on high tech businesses and how to propel them to succeed in the European market.
Why pick this topic for our June Exportia Lab? Because the European Summer holiday season takes place in July and August and European companies will ask you to call back in September to arrange meetings with key personnel. Sales and business can’t wait. We cannot afford to wait until September and therefore we need a plan. Today we are going to devote 20 minutes to focus on 7 tips to navigate the business slowdown which occurs in the European holiday months of July and August. I will share some strategies we have developed at Exportia to navigate the slower business months in Europe. Then we will have a Q&A. If you have some questions feel free to ask them at the end.
These are the seven tips we’re going to go through. First, anticipate what’s going to happen in July and August, be aware of the country’s holiday habits, and see how holidays vary across different countries that have different vacation habits.
It’s best to make the most of the European Summer to have conversations with your clients and distributors. Build a six month plan with them. What’s going to happen till the end of the calendar year, prepare for your shows and conferences because they’re back and they can happen virtually as well. It is time to think about catalogues for your distributors and then let’s do some marketing housekeeping so that’s my seven tips. Let’s go through them.
First, in anticipation, before all of Europe goes to sleep, it is time for you to ask your European customers when they are going on holiday.
Some factories will close completely during the summer months, so make sure you’re aware of them because you’re probably not going to have more than minimal business contact with them during the holidays.Some businesses may have staff who can deal with day to day business matters. Find out who they are and plan some meetings.
Not everyone takes two months off from the first of July to the end of August. Nobody takes the full two months holiday, people have to work. So it’s a good time to plan catch up meetings with them throughout this period. Call them now and plan your meetings. Now is a good time.
That’s tip number one, a bit of anticipation, so that you don’t spend the entire summer trying to find who is where, who’s on holidays and who is not. Be aware of each country’s holiday habits, as different countries have different holiday times of year.
The UK and in Germany is probably where there’s less disruption throughout the holidays. The British tend to take their holidays from the end of June, and towards the end of July and August. Businesses generally are contactable and continue to operate. It is a similar case for Germany depending on where people live.
In Germany holidays will vary from State to State and school holiday dates will also vary from State to State. In each State, depending on the holidays of your particular state both the school holidays and the holiday dates will vary. If you have a Munich based buyer or a Bavarian based distributor who has holidays on certain dates then Westphalia will have other dates so you have to be mindful of that.
For France, pretty much from Bastille Day 14th of July to the end of August French people tend to take their holidays. It’s very common so from early July, you can still reach people and toward the last week of August, you can as well. People have to back each other up so make sure you know who is who, who is at the office and when.
In Spain, August is the time, this is a slow time so be aware of making the most of it in July. The Nordics tend to take their holidays a little bit earlier because July is a month, where they have a beautiful Sun and they want to make the most of those long days, which is quite exceptional for them, so July will be the biggest month for them. Italy will be more Au. Some companies will have different policies around holidays, some companies deal with the entire world, and therefore the country may have a specific habit, but they may want to deal differently so make sure your key customer people you’re expecting orders from or your expecting to do business with and make sure you know what what’s going on with them.
Time for better conversations, it is the European summer season and it is a good time to have discussions and to say okay.
From January to June, this is the six months period that shows what’s been working and what’s not working. People will be more relaxed and will actually talk. It’s a good time to reflect with them and try to see what else you could achieve together. It’s a good time to introduce new products and discuss them with them. What do they think about them? It’s also a good time to reach out to new people to new businesses and new companies. It’s a good time as they are more open and receptive.
If sometimes you have tenders coming in during the summer season, it’s always good to keep watching the tenders, as well, during the period and not to forget that this is a good time for in-depth business conversations. People are more open to listening, hence my previous recommendation to schedule some time from mid July to the end of August to have those in depth conversations.
Tip number four: Build your six month plan from July to the end of December. For most European businesses the end of the calendar year is their financial year.
The end of the European financial year is 31st of December, which means that you have six months to work with them on their own targets, they must have some sales (cells) objectives. If they are a distributor the sales representative has an objective, a target to see how they’re tracking on their sales target and can your product help them to meet their sales targets. And what are you going to do with them, together with them going to help them achieve their targets so it’s a good time to plan. The slower European month is a good time to plan that with them. They have more time, more thinking time as well. Let’s not leave it until September.
September, then everything is decided so it’s almost already too late. By the time you try to reach them in September it leads you to October and then you have just three months to finish the year, that’s the way I see it.
You don’t have six months anymore, you have three months only to finish the financial year in Europe. Don’t leave it until September, use the summer season to plan and have a bigger plan with key milestones during the next six months is my advice.
Tip number five: Prepare your shows and conferences, actually shows and conferences are back . We’ve seen that there’s a lot of face to face conferences that are being planned at the moment. We’re not a hundred percent sure that they will be delivered face to face, but, and they are often mixed, they often have digital and have face to face components with physical booths. There’s options and they trade show organizers to have them quite flexible.
What to do now? Make sure that you have a few shows arranged for the next six months, or plan so that you can make the most of those activities and marketing activities to generate leads. So digital conferences but also physical shows, this is a good time to prepare your booth design. Most of the shows in the industry will take place in October.
October, November, even September and therefore it’s time to plan your booth design, start your lead generation campaign now. Who are you going to target for those conference endorsed shows, or who are you going to invite to those shows so it’s a good time to review your list and make sure it’s updated? Start to prepare a save the date communication, especially if you have a show or digital conference in September, say hey when are you back from your holidays? Come and see us in September at this conference, or digital conference, or attend our conference. It’s a good way to actually reach out to customers as well. What happens with certain distributors, and I know, some of you today work with distributors, is that they tend to issue their new updates for their catalogue, which is the selection of products that they are going to publish in the catalogue. Often during the Summer month that’s when there are these two rounds of updates particularly (to be key) for European distributors that ever ???? update that catalogue.
So that’s September they issue the catalogue and they publish and distribute it, or it’s usually towards January, so this true it’s either or no, they do the updates now for September.
And then the new catalogue is ready for the trade shows, or they say no, no, no, we actually update our catalogue in January. Then you have a bit more time, so just check with your distributors when they update their catalogues. If you’re not aware of when they’re updating their catalogue it’s a good time to contact them. Many distributors are updating their catalogues now. They will ask you for your latest photos and products. Check with them that all your products are in their catalogue. Are they missing anything? Have you updated your prices? There’s a bit of negotiation as well, they are going to want to make you pay if you want to double page entries, if you want to include more information, so there is a bit of negotiation going on for you,it’s time to review all your products.
Have they missed anything, is that wording correct, is it clear enough it’s a good way to to check. Check their paper catalogues, use the PDF, check the online catalogue as well. That’s usually a good time to do that, and then we also have. Just taking the time, I think we all find it easy.
Marketing is tip number seven and marketing housekeeping. And it’s usually a good time or so, to check that your distributors and everyone has the right marketing collateral. Update your marketing collateral. Do you need any brochure translated into specific languages? It’s a good time to update your website. Make sure that in September, when everybody’s back, you’ll have everything updated. Do you have all the latest safety data sheets on your website, the latest technical release documentation, and your certification documents on the website? So it’s a good time to check. In relation to your distributors website make sure that your products are in the catalogue.
But then we forgot to check that we have our products on their website, have they displayed the right photos and so on, so it’s good to do a bit of a check.
Check your distributors. Are all of your products online and that they are still online or have they disappeared. Why are my products not on their website anymore, what happened? Check with your distributor. It’s a good way to reach out to distributors to keep the conversation going and keep them active.
In terms of marketing housekeeping check the next six months of conferences that you may have registered for. You may have missed a few as well, some of them have decided to postpone for now and some of them are going ahead in the mix digital physical format.
Some have stopped again, especially in the medical sector, most of them are again completely digital this year, especially smaller digital conferences they usually don’t want to take the risk.
The European Summer is a good time to do marketing housekeeping. Let me recap, so very simply anticipate by asking your contacts when they take their holidays.
Make sure you schedule some meetings in your agenda to discuss the next six months, so be aware of countries’ holiday habits. Your Nordics might be holidaying already! Are they about to go? So hurry up if you need to contact them, you have a little more time with the Spanish. Be aware of various country’s holiday habits and the different times at which they take their holidays and plan some meetings to have better conversations with them, you know, let’s regroup on the last six months on what we’ve done, what worked, what didn’t work, maybe that product didn’t work, what is the feedback, what is the team doing, do they need any training so it’s a good time to have good conversations.
Build with them a six month plan so that they reach the target for the end of the calendar year, especially for distributors it’s a good time.
It’s a good idea with key accounts to say okay, in the next six months, what are your priorities, what are you going to focus on, do you have any specific project you need to get done?
Before the end of the year everybody has target performance objectives so build your six months plan around those objectives and prepare your shows and conferences.
If you have conferences or shows for September, October, November it’s now time to prepare. And then catalogue preparation is also a good time to regroup with your distributors.It is time to talk to your distributors about when they are reviewing their catalogue. Make sure it’s updated that you are going to be in their new catalogue and that your products are going to be included. Make sure all the information and corrections in the current catalogues are correct, all images are correct, descriptions are correct, and that you’ve not been deleted from their catalogue without knowing, which sometimes happens. So we started to do a marketing housekeeping exercise. If my website is up to date, have I the right collateral, is it time to do some translations?
My safety data sheet is updated and so do my distributors have access to our marketing, do they need something more? Do they need updated marketing collateral from us? It’s a good time to do a marketing housekeeping check of your distributor’s website, as well, and see what’s going on with them so that’s our seven tips for today.
I’ve seen your question Sanjay and I’m going to come to it. Now, I have to go to Q and A’s. So Sanjay, if you’re speaking to someone who is not a decision maker during holidays, what do you recommend?
If you’re not talking to the decision maker, it might be good to enquire when you can set up a time, if you can’t get a time with them, and if you can’t get them to involve the decision makers. Maybe you need to know who that decision maker is and target them directly, if it’s appropriate, you don’t want to bypass people. Another way to do it is to say okay you don’t want to talk to me during summer. Let’s plan a meeting in September. Right now, some people are already giving us meetings for September.
Don’t hesitate to do that in terms of the year if people use the Summer holidays as an excuse to delay setting up meetings Look, you have to think, you have to think that you need to define what their motivations are and how you are going to convince them. I would need a bit more context to know what you need to convince your person to introduce you to the right decision maker.
We have two medical sector companies here today. Many European distributors have said that attendees login for educational presentations and leave before they visit the booth.
What feedback experience do you have with virtual conferences okay so with virtual conferences our experience is that we need to talk a hundred percent We need to have presentations and I agree with you, this is the same feedback as what you have is really make sure you have a presentation and best of all, if you have a customer of yours that can talk during that presentation, so one of the peers so if you are targeting. I don’t know Cardiology. Make sure you have one of your cardiac surgeons talking and presenting about your technology and how they’re using it and what they have, how they have adopted the technology and what happened. Because people don’t want to hear sales people talking, they want to hear their peers, even if it is an Australian surgeon. Europeans will be very open to listen to them and to their experience that we have done in the past, so agree with you.
The actual conferences, where, if you speak, and then you send them to your booth but people go to the booth we’ve had a few leads from the booth but it needs to be combined not just a booth. Just a booth it won’t work and that’s why you need to conference, I agree with you on that one. No problem, anyone has any other questions.
Okay, now feel free to send the question as we wrap up, we have a few more minutes, so a challenge for you is to reach out and set up meetings now.
Your main European clients have distributors before or after or during the holidays, to talk about the next six months, reflect on the past six months and plan the next six months with them and have many meaningful conversations with them so that’s my challenge to you. You should do those meetings in July or August. It is a really good time to do that. Alright, so let’s plan now to finish 2021 with success for everyone, and some of you, I think, already have.
My book, which has won the Australian best business book in sales and communication in 2020 and so if anyone has not read it? There’s an opportunity to receive a copy of the book that you can share with somebody. If you haven’t already received a copy, just send us an email with your details and we’ll be happy to send you a book.
Okay, we have another question coming up. At the moment there’s no traveling restrictions or restrictions on physical meetings for people in Europe. If you are traveling to Europe, the Australian government still has restrictions for when you come back to Australia. It’s still an issue, but you can work in a team.
If you work in teams with your distributors, you can actually get them to attend conferences on your behalf and work with you, I mean we have our team over there that we have already planned to send to the European conferences over the next six months, and so that’s what we have planned for customers and that’s how you demonstrate your product. Another option is to have somebody like a distributor to also represent you and work with you so that’s another option.
Alright, everyone, if there are no other questions this was our June Exportia Lab about how to work around the slower European Summer month and how to make the most of it, so I hope you enjoyed it. We will have our next Exportia Lab in July and then potentially in August we will have one together with a Government agency to talk about distribution agreements and pricing and t’s and c’s we’ll have that for August. For July we will let you know the date and the topic. If there’s any topic you would like me to talk about, just post it in the chat, or email it to us, when we send you the survey and the follow up email, with all the information all right, everyone nice to see you all.
And we’ll See you in July, for our July Exportia Lab. Thank you again.