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The International Trade Blog

How to Sell International Expansion to Your Company's Top Decision-Maker

Richard Corson Richard Corson | June 15, 2022 | International Sales & Marketing

How to Sell International Expansion to Your Company's Top Decision-Makers | Shipping SolutionsThroughout my career with the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, and now as an international business consultant, the most challenging situations with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have not involved the technical, logistical or regulatory aspects of exporting; rather, the really tough and relatively common issue facing SMEs entails getting the ultimate decision-maker’s long-term commitment to international market expansion.

In the last three decades, I have met with many directors and vice presidents who enthusiastically articulated their passionate interest in growing their company’s international sales, who later received direction to discontinue the effort by the top decision-maker. I have also spoken with top decision-makers who initially indicated an interest in exploring international markets, only to later abandon the effort.  A frustrating, but not uncommon, situation.

Making the commitment to pursue international markets, regardless of the opportunities, is often difficult  for SMEs. It can seem overwhelming and companies often do not know how to begin. It’s also fairly common for SMEs to express contentment with fulfilling the occasional international order and happily regard themselves as reactive exporters.

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To guide a company to grow into one that is fully committed to international business, decision-makers and marketing/sales managers who must obtain approval to pursue international expansion should consider these points :

1. Cultivate a Geocentric Mindset

Revel in the fact that there are approximately 200 countries in the world, and 96% of the world’s population lives outside of the U.S., living day-to-day within a multitude of cultures.

2. Conduct Market Research 

Market research will help determine the best markets for your company’s products or services. (I wrote about how to conduct market research here.) Seek assistance from the public sector and/or private sector.

3. Assess Your Resources 

Closely analyze the company’s human and financial resources to assess the company’s ability to assertively pursue and successfully conduct international business for at least the next five years.  

4. Commit to Long-Term Growth

Consider the money spent to develop and conduct international business an investment in the company’s long-term growth—an opportunity to substantially increase profits, retain current employees and perhaps hire more staff.

Early in the process, dedicate one employee to manage the company’s international expansion and require the employee to create a comprehensive, five-year strategic plan. Use the market research as the plan’s foundation. The plan must include market entry methods, channels of distribution, shipping and documentation, regulatory/legal requirements, payment methods, due diligence and cultural considerations, including negotiation strategies. Seek assistance from the public and/or private sector as needed. Further into the process, consider adding another employee to work on international business expansion. This could be a current employee who can assist at least on a part-time basis at first, or possibly a new hire.

5. Prepare for Setbacks

Exercise patience and expect that the process will likely encounter some delays and challenges. It’s typical and should not discourage you.

6. Motivate Your Team

Enjoy the process, inform all the employees about it and convey the excitement to them!

As your company gains experience and expertise in international business and enjoys increased profits, you will very likely want to explore even more markets.  With growing enthusiasm and confidence, perhaps you’ll even seek opportunities to share your knowledge with others.


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