International Trade

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How to make the most of a trade mission

5 Mins

This article looks at the all-important work that needs to be done during the trade mission and the vital follow up needed to truly capitalise on the experience.

Attending a trade mission is a fantastic opportunity for your business – you can familiarise yourself with a market place in a way that cannot otherwise be achieved.

It is important that the right business representative is selected to go on the trade mission: they need to be fully aware of the market they are targeting and the products and services they are promoting, and equipped to answer the questions a potential business partner may ask – you really don’t want any ‘tumbleweed moments’ during those initial conversations!

Garnering the optimum amount of information is great, yet training and up-skilling internally in the business may be required to ensure international trade can be facilitated. This needs to be written into the core plan and strategy for the business, not just into the international trading plan.

While holding meetings in the chosen destination, try to find out what the process and timescale is for follow up contact, and make sure you stick to any promises you make in relation to sending further information or samples once you return home.

Don’t forget – the work doesn’t stop when you step off the plane back home with a successful trade mission under your belt. Being professional in the follow up can be what ultimately gets you the business.

During the trade mission it is vital that you:

Turn up on time to appointments – find out beforehand how long it will take you to get around and plan accordingly. It is often difficult to gauge your timing over distance in an unfamiliar city

Be appropriately dressed – inappropriate clothing can cause embarrassment or offence
Meet as many different contacts as possible – this trip is about creating the conditions for you to do business and it is vital to develop a network of contacts if you are serious about selling your product or services internationally

Take an active part in networking and social events – developing relationships is often best done after the business discussion has ended

Have a meeting with your bank representative – this may be someone from your bank who has travelled with you, or it may be one of their sister banks. Either way, discuss with them how they can help you expand your business into the relevant market

Stay connected with your business back home – business doesn’t stop because you are away from it, so make sure you remain in contact with important clients and keep your colleagues updated on your progress

After returning from the trade mission you should:

Debrief your colleagues – let them know how the trade mission went, who you met, what the outcomes were and what the next steps will be – you’ll need their help, so try to get them on board with the opportunities

Follow up with contacts you made during your mission – send them any additional information or material requested during the trip

Start refreshing your business plan based on your trip – if it was successful and you are serious about international business, start planning for that growth journey now

Follow up with your bank – let them know how the trade mission went, what your plans are for the future and how they can help. Many banks will have dedicated international specialists whose job it is to help you do business internationally, so make the most of this

Strike while the iron is hot – you’ve invested time, energy and money in this experience so, whatever the next steps may be – do them now

The potential for your business in international trade is exciting and the impact of it is far reaching. Research shows that trading internationally can make businesses more resilient to changing economic conditions, spreading their risk across a number of different markets.

It shows that businesses which trade internationally have higher turnover, employ more people, become more productive and ultimately, last longer in business. These articles should help you feel prepared to tackle and embrace a trade mission and we hope in turn, that you are able to really capitalise on the opportunities provided.

The world may be your oyster – it is certainly your opportunity!

John Williams is head of Breakthrough at Santander

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