Facing commercial agendas and missions.

One of the most commonly used methods for internationalization and seeking new clients is the commercial mission or agenda.

Whether conducted independently or with the assistance of a public institution or specialized consultancy, this remains a widely employed procedure among exporting companies, especially in the initial phases of market expansion.

There's nothing like traveling to introduce yourself to new importers, distributors, influencers, and potential buyers. Direct, face-to-face interaction with your future business partners can facilitate strengthening the relationship between both parties.

In any case, these commercial agendas and missions must fulfill a goal if they wish to be successful: optimal preparation.

What is my positioning in the market currently and the demand for my product?

What is the situation of my competitors and at what prices do they sell?

Do I really know all the importers and their activity?

How do I know if buyers are reliable, focus on long-term relationships, or diversify their suppliers a lot?

Where do I find the contacts of each company to know who to approach?

These are some of the questions we must ask ourselves prior to preparing a commercial agenda. To obtain the necessary information, we can resort to various sources: chambers of commerce, commercial databases, market studies, public reports, websites, and social networks are some of them. However, we see that this is changing with the introduction of new tools such as commercial intelligence.

These solutions allow you to answer all the previously mentioned questions. By analyzing official customs data or other sources, you'll have precise, comprehensive, and real-time information about what's happening in the market with just one click and few resources. You'll know exactly what your competition is doing, who, when, and what your future customers are buying, knowing who we need to talk to and detecting hidden opportunities and threats. No more exporting and investing blindly based on intuition and incomplete, outdated data.

When undertaking a commercial mission and developing an agenda professionally, it is crucial, unquestionably, to master these strategies and interpret this type of information very well.

To delve into commercial missions, we have relied on the experience and opinion of Marc Rodríguez, a member of the Manresa Chamber of Commerce from the perspective of the public sector.

xNova: What types of information sources or tools do you use to study the situation of a market and the opportunities it can offer to an exporting company?

Marc: I rely a lot, above all, on Trademap to see which countries are best positioned in terms of import and export trade groups. We also use studies from ICEX to identify entry barriers, such as product commercialization and how it needs to be adapted to the target market.

xNova: In a practical case of planning a commercial mission, what would be the itinerary you follow, from when you start researching until the trip or meeting with future business partners takes place?

Marc: Firstly, we search for the partner at the destination, who will be responsible for the business agendas. We work with ACCIÓ, ICEX, or the Spanish Chambers of Commerce abroad. Then, we agree on a date that suits both parties and makes sense for the companies (for example, not scheduling during the first fortnight of August when everyone is on vacation).

Once we confirm the date and coordinate with the other Chambers, we begin communication to attract companies to join the mission. Once this is done, we pass the profile to the commercial offices for validation and approval of the product being marketed. Finally, if they find it appropriate and see that the product matches what buyers in the target market are looking for, the commercial offices begin to create business agendas and cross-reference with the companies to ensure the client profile being presented is suitable (if the importer has a certain volume, if there is a match between the product, the Catalan exporter, and the importer).

xNova: What procedures do you typically use to get to know the buyer? Attendance at fairs or events, networking, one-on-one meetings with potential buyers...?

Marc: It's the commercial offices that directly contact them at the destination. We don't create business agendas, and since it's the commercial office that is on-site, they take care of creating the agendas based on participating in events or using databases.

On the other hand, we conduct many promotional webinars for the commercial mission. These are very useful for attracting companies' attention and having an initial meeting with the director of the commercial office, who provides an overview of the country, how it's performing, and what sectors offer opportunities.

xNova: In case of unforeseen events during that commercial trip, what contingency plans do you have to solve these problems?

Marc: There are always unforeseen events. The buyer might have another meeting or cancel at the last moment, and what we try to do is reschedule. Since we've traveled to the country and plan to visit them, we try to make the most of it and be flexible so the company can still have the meeting with them.

For example, if it's Monday and they cancel the Tuesday meeting, we have a few days to find a new slot, arrange a virtual meeting, etc.

xNova: In the post-mission phase, how do you follow up on the opportunities and contacts that arise during the trip?

Marc: The company takes care of this. Based on the meetings they've had, they can clearly see the consumer profile they're targeting and handle post-mission follow-up. We do call to ask how it went, how many meetings they think were fruitful, etc. We do some follow-up, but commercially, it's the companies that have to win over the buyer and sell the product.

The commercial offices also offer post-mission follow-up to arrange new meetings and see how things are progressing.

xNova: Finally, when it comes to conveying and reporting information about the commercial mission to the company you're assisting, what is your procedure?

Marc: Primarily, I use email marketing campaigns: I have the database segmented by sector and based on the mission and the product that we believe best fits what the buyer is looking for, we send emails.For example, if it's Japan or South Korea, we target companies in the agri-food sector. If it's Brazil, we focus on chemicals or technology... Depending on the market, we look for one product or another.

Additionally, we search on LinkedIn for the Export Manager's profile to call them, contact them, offer them the itinerary, and explain why we think it's important for them to participate.We try to schedule an initial meeting with them, explain the details... And if they remain interested, we provide them with the program and try to arrange a second meeting with the director to finalize the deal with the company.

On the other hand, in the private sector, we have Paco Sáez, Business and Sales Manager at LORUSSO, whom we've been able to ask some questions about commercial agendas.

xNova: What is your procedure for creating a commercial agenda for the interested company?

Paco: Firstly, we arrange a meeting at the company to identify the customer profile we want to reach. Then, we research these potential customers using methods such as market intelligence, inside view, analyzing companies' financial reports, and databases of their previous projects. Once this is done, we cross-reference all the information and present it to the interested company. We continue calling the company and its purchasing department, introducing ourselves and setting objectives. Finally, we send them an email to schedule a meeting.

xNova: How do you coordinate the meetings and/or visits you're going to have with the contacts you've compiled and considered interesting through what means or channels?

Paco: Before the visit, we have a preliminary online meeting with the buyers, so we visit them when the opportunity is "hot" and there's some prior relationship and conversation.

We use searches on LinkedIn or Rocket Reech to gather emails and contacts.

xNova: How do you measure the results of such a commercial agenda and the successes achieved?

Paco: Based on our objective, we measure how many appointments have been achieved, analyze satisfaction questionnaires, etc.

xNova: What do you believe are the best practices that successful companies with agendas have in common?

Paco: Having clear target markets and product differentiators, especially in saturated markets. Being prepared in terms of documentation, language, translations, technology, presentations, and market studies. Taking into account the cultural reality of the country we're targeting. Knowing how to react to last-minute cancellations and ensuring that appointments are well-coordinated.


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