Exporting: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
In a diverse and ever-changing world, we cannot assume that everyone is the same. Tata Chemicals Europe’s Export Account Manager Cristina has a lot of experience travelling the world, visiting different markets in different countries to grow Tata Chemicals Europe’s overseas business.
In her latest speaking appearance as an Export Champion for the Department of International Trade, Cristina told delegates that when it comes to exports, business is built on personal relationships. New markets won’t be reached without hard work and proper preparation, as she explains here, but just as importantly, different cultures need to be embraced in order to gain the trust of your new customers. No two business trips are the same, and Cristina shared some of her experiences with delegates at the Exporting is GREAT Roadshow last week, hosted by the UK Government’s Department of International Trade.
Cristina said: “One time, I was in Japan meeting a potential distributor, and they took me to dinner. I was not sure how well the meeting was going, they would not give anything away. But then we were served raw eggs as part of our meal. Initially I refused, but decided to embrace the culture and finished my meal as I had read beforehand that this was important in the Japanese business culture. It was a relatively simple gesture, but they really appreciated it, and from then on we have had a very good and fruitful commercial relationship. They are now an incredible distributor. They now like me, and have a relationship with me, so they trust me. They are very personal and it’s very important for the business relationship.
“There are many small nuances that need to be taken into consideration when dealing with customers in a new country. Of course, speaking their language goes a long way, but if you don’t speak their language, even a few words translated for an email can go a long way to showing that you are making an effort. ”
Cristina also stressed the importance of researching the country and the culture as well as potential gaps in the sectors you are targeting. She was particularly proud of some successes she has had supplying industries that save people’s lives.
She explained: “One of our export sectors is haemodialysis treatment. The UK doesn’t make its own haemo products, everything is imported. But in the developing countries around the world the haemodialysis sector is growing. The population is growing, the economy of some countries are improving and therefore more money is made available for medical treatments such as haemodialysis. Previously, if someone had a problem with their kidneys in some of these developing countries, they would not necessarily receive haemodialysis treatment, but now their governments are paying for them and therefore more and more countries are using our Sodium Bicarbonate as a result.”
Adviser Jessica Zhang, from the China-Britain Business Council agreed that it is vitally important to understand your potential customers on a cultural and personal level: “We help all different sizes of companies export into China, covering different areas. In China they have to like you as a person, otherwise they will not deal with you. It takes a long time to break into China – it is not an overnight win, but now is the time to get in there. You have to be there to reap the rewards. The benefits of trading into China are huge. China itself is so huge and diverse that we look at China like a continent rather than a country. We prioritise by region and sector. Even if you can get just 1 or 2 % of the market share in China, that’s massive.”
Our Export Champion Cristina was speaking as a UK Government Export Champion at the roundtable event for aspiring exporters in Liverpool last week. Chair of the event, Kevin Finucane of the Department of International Trade, said: “Export Champions like Cristina are willing to go the extra mile to help domestic companies begin their export journey. It’s great to hear it from advisers in the UK Government, but it is certainly even better to hear it from experts in the industry.”
The ‘Exporting is GREAT’ roadshow truck was at Albert Docks for the event, at which Cristina was joined by Trade Advisers and Export experts from the Department of International Trade. The purpose of the event was to engage SME representatives in discussion about exports, and offer them advice about entering the global marketplace.
For more information, search ‘Exporting is Great’ or visit www.great.gov.uk
To contact Tata Chemicals Europe about our exports or any other sales enquiry, email email@example.com