Before you make that first communication with your prospective manufacturer on a product you wish to import or export, you should create a phone, Skype, or email script. No matter how tedious it is to prepare, it can be a powerful sales tool. You might do something along these lines and the script can be tailored to import or export a product. In this example, we focus on exporting a product.
Exporter: "May I speak with your export manager?"
Receptionist: "What's that?" (A good sign; this means an opportunity for you)!
Exporter: "The person who is responsible for selling your products overseas."
Receptionist: "Hmm, I don't know. I'll have to check. Would you hold on a moment, please?"
Exporter: "Of course."
Receptionist: "Thank you for waiting. Sam Smith handles sales. He's the person you need to talk with. I'll put you through."
Exporter: "Thank you."
Manufacturer: "Sam Smith."
Exporter: "Hello Mr. Smith, I'm Julie Jones, founder of Jewelry Exporting Co., exporter of high-quality, affordable costume jewelry. I understand your company manufactures this type of product. We are seeking new sources of supply for our overseas customers. Are you interested in exploring new markets and increasing sales? Our jewelry exporting firm can give you instant access to customers worldwide . . ." (You've now set the stage for who you are, what you do and what you seek: a business relationship.)
An introductory call to set up a meeting might continue like this:
Manufacturer: "Absolutely. I'd be happy to explore the opportunity. When would you like to meet or have a Skype call?"
Exporter: "How does next Monday morning, 10 a.m., at your office or for the call sound?"
Manufacturer: "Perfect, a Skype call is ideal. I'll be ready for your call then. My Skype ID is EYZ. What’s yours? Is there anything I should have available for our meeting?"
Exporter: "Yes, send me a company brochure and your current wholesale price schedule by email before the call. (This gives you a quick idea of how digitally savvy they are with their marketing material; e.g., Do they respond by sending a PDF file by email or a three-fold brochure by snail mail?) If you have time, product samples and any other important information that you think is important to our discussion would be helpful in advance as well. If we have a good fit, I'll need more brochures, say, 20 if printed or one single PDF file that features everything that I can use for my customers."
Manufacturer: "No problem. I'll see that we have them available."
Exporter: "One more thing—I don't think it's critical for this initial Skype meeting, but you might want to ask your top management to be a part of our subsequent session to make sure we have their commitment to our export program."
Manufacturer: "I'll see if they are available when I hang up. If not, we can have them sit in on the call next time."
Exporter: "Great! I look forward to connecting with you on Monday—and incidentally, Mr. Smith, if you choose us to represent you in your export transactions, our profits are earned directly out of the sales we generate for you. You cannot get any more cost-efficient than that!"
Manufacturer: "Sounds too good to be true. I look forward to meeting you virtually on Monday as well."
Exporter: "Thanks and have a good day!"
Manufacturer: "Same to you, goodbye."
How to Continue the Call
Cold-calling or emailing to request company information is probably the most practical contact strategy when you're just starting out and haven't the funds for airfare to visit your target company in person. Sure you can review a prospective manufacturer's online presence, but getting their involvement at the beginning is critical to success. Such a call would continue something like the following:
Manufacturer: "Absolutely. I'd be happy to discuss the opportunity."
Exporter: "Would you be kind enough to send me your company brochure either by snail mail or email? I’ve reviewed your website but would like to see additional collateral material on your product line. Further, do you have a blog? Are you on Facebook and Twitter?"
Manufacturer: "Sure. I'll get our marketing material out to you today. Where should I send it? And yes, we are on most of the major social media platforms. Find us at: ________, ________ and __________."
Exporter: "Thank you. Send it to _________. In the meantime, I'll furnish you with my company background as well."
Manufacturer: "That would be great. I look forward to receiving it."
Exporter: "Good. If we have a good fit, the next step is to set up a meeting. What's more convenient, your office or mine?"
Manufacturer: "I generally get to Chicago once a month. Perhaps on my next trip, we can arrange a meeting at your office." (Always a good practice for both parties at some point to see facilities of operations in person.)
Exporter: "That would be fine. I'll phone or email you in a week or two. In the meantime, nice talking with you, and have a good day."
Manufacturer: "Thanks, and same to you."
Rehearsing the Script
Setting up the script helps to keep you focused and effective on the phone, Skype, or email. It will help you accomplish what you set out to achieve: an appointment to sell your export service or a request for information to review. The script is there to lend structure, not to constrain you, so tailor it to fit your style: Be knowledgeable, be friendly, and be yourself.
Rehearse your pitch to your friends. If they make fun of you, you're on your way to developing a winning script because you have their attention. Find out why they're poking fun and improve your script.
After a few calls and emails to prospective manufacturers, you will feel confident without the script. Once you reach that point, don't throw it out, but pass it on to the next aspiring importer or exporter!
From there, the next step is to make sure you are thoroughly prepared for your next contact with the manufacturer.