If you have ever been developing business cross border you will know this better than anyone: it is vital to have questions prepared when meeting or interacting with prospects and to think in advance about what you need to know in order to judge how “hot” the lead is. Here are Bolst Global’s top 5 questions to ask prospects when meeting them.
1°. To settle the details of a possible agreement between us, who would I have to contact at your firm?
The person you contact or meet may not be the final decision-maker. You should be aware who you are talking to, what their role in the company is, how much power/influence they have within the company. It is also essential to know how the decision will be made, either collectively or by one individual, and what the delays for the decision to be made will be. Cross-cultural skills are very important to apprehend decision-making processes: in France, decisions tend to be taken by one individual, the boss, whereas in Germany, decision-making is a collective process and therefore takes longer, as compromise is at the heart of their business culture. Moreover, it is essential you do not lose time emailing or phoning people when following up, just to be told they are not in charge and cannot help you.
2°. What is your company looking for at the moment?
Ask your prospects about their plans, targets, goals. It is important that you know what they are looking for and trying to achieve by taking on your product and, what success would mean to them on say a three-year forecast. If possible, try to gather information about their mid- to long-term overall company development strategy and to understand their priorities. By defining all this, you will have a clearer idea of how important it is that you feature on their list and how your interests and values align (or maybe don’t!). Ultimately if you are appointing a distributor in a market then they are effectively becoming your sales and distribution team on the ground. Therefore sharing the same values of how to go about doing business together and the passion for your brand is crucial for long term success.
3°. Which other brands are you working with at the moment?
With this question, you will try to find out how important your product would be to your prospect within their portfolio, which would determine how much effort they put into selling it. If your prospect has many other products to distribute and more important ones, they might not pay as much attention or focus as much on your product as a distributor with less products to deal with. On the other hand, a high number of products can be a sign of greater experience. You should find the balance that suits you between focus on your product and experience.
4°. How many field sales people do you have at your disposal and what territory do you operate in?
All this information you will obviously get to know much more intimately later on if you close the deal but as a starting point it is important you know in which territory the company operates (particularly to know that it doesn’t conflict with any other distribution agreements that you may have in place), how strong their sales force is both in size and which kind of outlets and reach they say they can have. This will help you evaluate the efficiency and competence of your prospect and decide whether or not they would meet your needs.
5°. What would your average margins and quantity requirements be?
Do not be afraid to start talking figures from the very beginning: no matter how great a potential partner may seem, if they are only willing to buy very small quantities of your products which won’t work for you as you operate on high volume production (or the converse!) or have too significant margin requirements which means that the pricing just won’t stack up for any party in the supply chain, you should know this sooner rather than later. This way don’t waste your time building a relationship to meet a deadlock at a further stage of negotiation.
Want some help validating existing overseas prospects? Or trying to seek out more in certain international markets?
Get in touch with us here with some initial details to see how we can help you achieve more internationally.