Why Overseas Partner Searches Are More Involved Than You Think

 

During the past two years, Xport has carried out several Partner Searches for Finnish companies who want to grow their overseas business. This has been done for several different industries going to different countries. We have done this to invite people to meet at a trade show booth, arrange face-to-face meetings or find distribution partners.

Naturally, we don’t have direct contact to all the potential purchasers in every sector in every country, so this is how we go about the task: More than just cold calling, it is not a quick process. It often involves several calls & e-mails over a period of weeks.

1. List of target companies
OK, so using the internet makes this part fairly straightforward to look for companies in a certain industry/country.

2. Research the target contacts
Step two is not easy. In Finland, most companies include contact details of individuals on their website. You can often get the e-mail address and mobile phone number of the Managing Director. Elsewhere for example, a UK website will have a contact form, an info@ e-mail address and/or just a switchboard/reception number. So we use LinkedIn as an alternative to identifying the correct contact; the success of this varies depending on the industry.

3. Call to make the initial connection personal
Whatever contact info you have, connecting with the correct person one-to-one is another challenge. As is getting past the person on the telephone switchboard who tells you to “send a message to our info@ e-mail address and I’ll forward it to the right person.” Even once you’ve managed to contact the right person, it can take several attempts to get them to respond to your enquiry.

4. Close the “sale”
With this work, it is important to know the basics of the product/service we are introducing, to be able to sell the basic concept and answer the initial questions.

5. Follow-up with e-mail
The follow-up e-mail will be one of the following.

  • If I’ve spoken to the correct person, I should be in a position to send more details of the product/service in question. This will confirm what we’ve discussed, answer any specific questions they have,  direct them how I want them to proceed e.g. arrange a date to meet or confirm they will take a sales call from my client.
  • If I do not speak to the correct person, then I send a much shorter message to confirm the appropriate contact and try to engage them in a dialogue. At this point, I will also consider sending InMail on LinkedIn (which has a cost of 8 €) or even at Tweet!

Repeat steps 3, 4 & 5 through to conclusion
I will continue this until I receive a definite response – positive or negative.

As you can see, this is not simple or quick work. It should be spread over a period of weeks, to allow target contacts to return from holiday, decide who the decision-maker is at their company or consider the details of the offer etc. etc. It is important to consider this when outsourcing the work; a short deadline will limit the possibility of success. Of course, this work can be done by a salaried member of your team or by a distributor, as well as being outsourced. Each of these has costs attached. Each will have different experience, ability and motivation to complete the project.

I want to finish with some figures from a recent Partner Search conducted by Xport, from which you can see it is about percentages. I would expect to progress with approx. 12-15% of people you contact:

Project: Arrange meetings at a Trade Show

  • Time period: 15 days
  • Time taken : 19 hours
  • Companies identified: 11
  • People contacted by e-mail or LinkedInMail: 34
  • People contacted by phone: 15
  • Confirmed meetings: 4

Mark Wiltshear, Co-Founder, Xport

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