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How to Find the Right International Partners

The practical business of finding highly productive agents/distributors and joint ventures in the foreign market for many still remains an enigma. Often, some companies are relying on luck instead of strategy in identifying their international representation.
 
Usually, many companies get into exporting almost by happenstance: most export sales are simply a spin-off from domestic contracts. Similarly, most agent and distributor relationships are born from random inquiries or chance meetings at trade shows. When asked how they obtained their international representation, many companies have no recollection whatsoever of how or why the relationship began. Strange as it may seem, the same is true of joint venture relationships.
 
With the growing use of the Internet, one could be fooled into thinking the odds of success in finding that elusive, top-performing trade partner will be increased. The key is to remember at all times that promotional materials are not stand-alone, clean “information”. The Internet can be used to provide indicators of activity and reach; however, these benefits in no way eliminate the more conventional, strategic wisdom that highly successful international sales organizations, in one way or another, employ.
 
Surprisingly, this hit-and-miss approach to international expansion is not exclusive to small-and medium-sized companies. Many well-recognized large companies spin the same wheel of chance. Experienced international executives and substantial budgets for foreign expansion will contribute to success, given the right opportunities. The problem is that “right opportunities” are rarely “given”. However, you may find your “right opportunities” by focusing on your internationsl objectives and by defining your ideal international partners.
 
If export sales is considered to be nothing more than “icing on the cake”, then that’s all they will ever be. Treat international business relationships with the same degree of attention and care as you do your domestic ones. Avoid a soft, non-pragmatic approach to foreigh trade partners. Low expectation born of previous poor performance by agents and distributors have led many companies to settle for figures that in no way reflect a meaningful market share. Don’t accept underperformance and mediocrity from your international represenatives.
 
Many companies partner with the first seemingly viable company that expresses interest in representing them. Invariably, this is a mistake. When agents and distributors emerge from nowhere and stand alone without comparison, they will always appear to be “golden opportunities”. Avoid the pressure of hasty decisions by taking the time to identify and write down what you consider to be the essential qualities of a top-performing trade partner. 
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