Finally the craziness of the trade mission is over, but unfortunately, the hard work is just beginning.
Unfortunately, it won’t be when you step on the plane home. If you have had successful meetings, you as an agency are happy with the immediate achievements and the companies are content that they have made good progress, then you have had a successful first phase of the mission. The difficult part ensuring the trade mission translates into trade success, starts now.
First meetings are just that, introductions. What can sometime feel like a good fit on first meeting, can soon change when you find that stated objectives where not accurate or priorities have changed, or you have been beaten to the post by a rival product/service. These are realities of doing business.
However, there are more mundane reasons for promising starts to fail, and these are the ones we have seen time and time again coming into play. You met with a potential contract manufacturer in the target market, first meeting was very positive, and you agreed to forward more basic information before signing an NDA and moving forward. You get home, and after two weeks away you have an inbox that will take 3 days to clear, your operations manager is off sick for two weeks, you have won two new contracts close to home and this will take 6 weeks of close attention before you can get your head above water again – the list goes on.
The upshot is that what seemed like an urgent need in this new market slowly becomes relegated to the less important and before you know weeks have gone by and you have not made the outreach you know you should have done. The same is true on the other side – you are diligent and rapidly get all your next actions following the mission complete within the first week – you are determined to make this time and expense pay for your company as soon as possible. However, your main hopes from the mission have run into their own version of the above scenarios and are strangely quiet and slow to return contact. You begin to doubt what was said or what happened during your cordial and very business-like meeting and suspect they were not being forthright.
How do you manage this from the other side of the world? OK, eventually you call, you get hold of the PA who informs you (in his/her not-so-great English) that your contact is away on a trip – this happens a couple of times and you feel a lack of urgency or that this is becoming a one-way street. And, yet…through genuine misunderstanding or simply lost in translation, there are legitimate reasons for the lack of contact – your contact might actually be away at factory 2 assessing the operations to be able to manage your business and comes back three weeks later to find a post-it note from the PA about some foreigner who called.
We have seen opportunities spiral away through inactivity and/or paranoia and it can be frustrating to watch. What works best is to have some form of follow up support on the ground to both prompt you into fulfilling promised actions and to make the call when the expected response fails to materialize – this way you get to understand what’s really going on and if it is a genuine rejection, you find out quickly. If it is no more than a work pressure delay, you understand that, and the new contact also understands that there is someone on the doorstep who is there to assist and smooth misunderstandings. We have seen this simple intervention over a period of a few months make the difference between business blooming or faltering. It only needs to be in place until a proper sense of trust and understanding has grown between you and your contacts or until your own business has grown sufficiently that you have your own representative on the ground who can take care of your developing clients.
HMC have done this for our clients for years, many of whom have rapidly moved on to trusting and trusted relationships with new partners internationally. Others who have used us intensively for 6-12months after their first visit until we have arranged a second or third trip, after which they have the confidence to manage on their own, and yet others who use us to vet potential new partners and indeed help them find their own employees in-market (and assist in early stage management and/or training).
How long does that take? How long is a piece of string? However, we can tell you that with the right ongoing in-market support, this will be driven to success much faster than trying to build relationships from the other side of the world. To find out more about what we can do for you, please call us or go direct to one of the team.