Managing the Challenge of International Sales

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Reading about the challenges to selling internationally in my last posting, "International Sales; what are ther risks?" may have discouraged you from doing so.  Well, the challenges are very surmountable.  Here is one "don't" and four "do's":

  1. Don’t go it alone.  The challenges of entering any foreign market for the first time are just too great for any inexperienced company to take on.  You simply do not have the knowledge or the infrastructure to make it happen.
  2. Do use a distributor.  Find a distributor in a foreign country and they will buy your product and resell it.  They will provide their knowledge of the language, culture and safety regulations to design a workable package and product.  They buy it from you, they hold inventory in their country and they resell it.  Importantly, they take on the risk of getting paid so you don’t have to worry.
  3. Do use a licensee.  If you don’t want to use your factories to make the products for them, work on a royalty rate and let them do all the work.  They will handle everything so you don’t have to worry about manufacturing, shipping, duty, exchange rates and the other things that might keep you up at night.

  • Do use an agent.  There are very capable agents who will assist you in finding distributors and licensees.  They do this all the time so they know the players and with whom to match you up.  Most importantly, these companies take their phone calls so they can make the connection on your behalf.
  • Do attend international trade shows.  Walk an international trade show (the Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg is the largest) and you will see any number of US products being sold in the booths of foreign companies. Make note of those who are carrying products similar to yours and stop and have a talk.  You will learn a lot and maybe even find an international partner.
  • Remember that selling internationally is a learning curve like anything else.  Using agents, licensees and distributors are a bit like the training wheels on your first bicycle.  Keep riding and someday you may, like Hasbro and Mattel, have the skills in place to keep your balance and keep moving forward.


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