Interview with Michael Corfield, Omnitanker
About Michael Corfield:
Michael is currently the Head of Sales of Omni Tanker. And the reason I wanted to interview him was because he has a very interesting and solid experience in export around the world. I thought it would be worth sharing a bit about his journey with our exporters community. Enjoy the read and you can also listen to the interview here. The interview has been slightly edited to ease the read.
Here is a tip from Michael:
“Don’t have a closed mind, think about your product and think where they have the most potential. Have no preconceived idea. Be culturally aware.” Michael Corfield
Christelle: Thanks for making the time and I don’t want to take too much of your time, because I know you’re a busy person and.
Christelle: Michael, you have 27 years of sales experience for Australian manufacturing and particularly in industrial textile. And, a lot of that experience is international is that right.?
Michael:Yes, that’s correct.
Christelle: When did you really start to do international sales?
Michael: I started in 1994 I was involved in an agricultural business that had sort of two businesses, it was an animal genetics business, as well as a consultancy business to essentially developing countries to do with agriculture.
Michael:I came into the business with agricultural and agribusiness experience and essentially I came into the role.
Michael: As the director of sales for this company, and from there, within my first week sorry my first three months, I found myself in Bangladesh talking to farmers about breeding technologies and animal genetics and all those types of things.
Christelle: Have they exported before you came in or basically you came into the role and they’ve sent you on a plane ?
Michael: They’d been exporting but the markets had been limited and they wanted to increase their markets and go to different areas. They had been exporting for many years and, in fact, they were pioneering that exporting arena. They’d been doing so, since sort of the mid 70s
Christelle: Okay, Was there a time when you came into a role as a salesperson and you said, look it’s time to export. Did that ever happen to you?
Michael: Yes, the next role I had was with an industrial textile company with very limited export business. I looked at the full range of products, and said that the potential for this goes was right around the world. And we needed to get out into the world and to be proactive about exporting and to promote Australian technologies. So from a very, very small base, which was essentially just New Zealand, and a little bit in Singapore. I took it wider to about 26 to 27 countries
Christelle: wow that’s that’s an amazing achievement, so what made you think that they were ready to export, why did you have that confidence that you could really take it further?
Michael: I guess and and it was in the early days of the Internet, and so I looked at the products and the technology behind the products. And I found it was of exceptional quality and an exceptional technology. It had a very strong manufacturing story.
Then sort of looked at each of those products and where they were going in the Australian market. And then looked at companies that did similar products around the world.
Christelle: yes, okay so by seeing that other companies that had similar products who were already exporting around the world that’s when you knew that they were ready, you thought why not us basically?
Michael: No, sorry I’ll just correct that : what I looked at was where the products in Australia were being used, and where the end products that were being used.
The international market was around those end products: searching those people that were developing those end products and then selling directly to them.
Christelle: Okay, so you thought there was a market because you identified potential targets in those potential markets. Okay so that’s how you felt comfortable that this company should go for it.
Christelle: Was there Anything else that you thought gave you more confidence that they were ready for it?
Michael: I guess there’s a couple of things and the most critical thing was the production capacity. I identified that we had enough production capacity, and this is a textile business and so capacity and production capacity is very important, identified they have the capacity to produce the product. They had the track record to sell the story and they had the technology behind the story. If you combine all of those things, said okay here’s a very strong message, this training company has a great range of products with great technologies behind it.
Michael: That is ready to sell to an international block
Christelle: Yes, so basically they were ready, you had the capacity, you identified the target clients, they had the right track record and a great story. I think that’s a very strong case to push for export! I would’ve done the same.
Christelle: And I just wanted to know if, in your experience you came to a time where you wish, you have prepared a bit more before you went to a market and it’s only when once you were there you thought I wish I had checked that before I went.
Michael:I guess again when we were working in a lot of developing countries like India , Pakistan and the Middle East a lot of it was generated around extensive traveling, and so we traveled to a market say the UAE.
Look at all of the companies involved in the UAE but I guess in those days you had a list of companies that might be 25 companies long.
All of them unqualified and so it was a matter of actually visiting each of the 25 and narrowing it down to the five people that you felt you could deal with.
My best, so that the inability to market research within a country
Michael: Was I guess, one of the biggest challenges, so I would say yes, I probably wasted six months developing markets and talking to 200 people that had no interest in our product, but the only way in terms of qualifying
Christelle: So that was hard to pre qualify before, That must have been hard. Was there any other case where you use the word next time or I’ll do that before I go?
Michael: No, that was about it .That was the biggest sort of challenge.
Christelle: Was there a time in your entire career , a market where you have never been before and you became very fond of as a way that people do business, and you would have never expected that?
Christelle: Did that ever happen to you?
Michael: Particular market or country?
Christelle: Country or Market, It’s up to you, whatever feels right
Michael: I guess you know the convincing sort of market information I get to say is. Our initial experience in India, where we went into India. I’ve been looking in Indian agriculture in the previous business and I came in to the industrial textile sector.
Michael: We had some Defense projects around some ballistic fabrics and so I went to look at that particular one. But thinking that India was a large textile producer, I thought that maybe our company didn’t have as much relevance as it was, as we have, but when I got to India and spent time researching the industrial textile market and meeting a few people.
Michael: I was just absolutely surprised that the potential for growth in that country in what we were doing, but I couldn’t have done that, without actually being there physically.
Michael: or in the new world doing a lot of market research around,but I was just absolutely surprised at how much potential and how many people wanted to talk and understand and to be open to learning about Australian products Australian textiles and Australian technologies. Because we have such a very good reputation of fair traders around the world.So I found that the doors are always open
Christelle: So that’s nice. You kind of came in, you were surprised, but you were open to grab that opportunity for your company, I think that was a really great way to leverage those opportunities for this company.
Christelle: Was there anything else you’d like to share with exporters that are getting started, like new exporters.
Michael: The General advice I got is to don’t have a closed mind about exporting one, think about your products and try to understand where they have the most potential in the world, go into markets with a completely open mind, and have no preconceived notions, ideas of success or not success, because there are times, where I thought this won’t be successful, then I was really surprised.
In that something evolved and it became quite a big project, so : have an open mind and don’t be closed about it. Being culturally aware, I think, is really important too.
Be aware of mannerisms and manners and consideration and tempering your presentation to suit the cultural norms of a country or market.
And the very important thing I always did right back from agriculture to what I do now is to sit, talk and to understand the company that you’re dealing with, to understand the people that you’re dealing with and come across without any prejudice.
Christelle: …Thanks for the opportunity to have this interview and I will see you very soon.