Visits to overseas customers should not be regarded as the occasion for a working holiday for directors and other senior management personnel. Exporting is specialized work and a trip abroad undertaken by a senior executive is not necessarily the best means of building export business. It is, of course, desirable that members of the company's top management should meet important overseas buyers. This can often best be done by inviting the buyer to visit the company's headquarters in its home country when a factory tour, accompanied by suitable entertaining, can be provided. When the Top People do go abroad, their objective should be to cement relations with customers, not to establish them. The donkey-work of exporting should be left in the hands of those whose specialized training and experience make them the best people for the job.

An overseas visit, whether it is undertaken by a senior executive, by the Export Manager or an export representative, requires very careful forward planning. A great deal of time and money are to be expended. For the individual undertaking the trip there will also be a considerable expenditure in energy. Travelling is tiring work. If he is to do his job properly, the whole trip needs to be properly organized.

The exporter, approaching a new market for the first time, should know his objectives. These are likely to consist of the following:

A. To investigate the market potential which has been established by preliminary desk research.

B. To appoint local distributors and agents following preparatory negotiations conducted by letter.

C. To visit major customers or potential customers to negotiate new or additional business.

When visiting an overseas customer, the company's representative should possess as much information as possible about the client and the nature of his business. He requires a record of his company's transactions with the firm, as well as of the activity of competitors, where these are known. For this purpose, a card index, set out on the following lines, can be most useful:

Name of Customer:

Address: Telephone No: Cable Address:


Nature of Business:

Types of Outlets Supplied:

Credit Rating: Bankers:

Payment Terms Agreed:

Products Supplied: Date: Quantity: Price:

Special Shipping Arrangements:

Competition Activities Noted:

Quality Complaints Received:

Service Complaints Received:

Future Prospects:

A record of this kind, which can be updated regularly, provides the visiting exporter with all the essential information he needs for his customer visits.

Having set out his objectives and collected his information, the exporter should prepare a detailed itinerary for each customer visit of his tour. It is desirable that this should be circulated well before he sets off, to the various personnel within the company whose work involves them with the overseas customers to be visited, as well as to the local agents in the countries concerned. The merit of this arrangement is that the recipients can bring to the attention of the exporter any additional matters which will assist him in his discussions and he can endeavour to obtain for them answers to any specific queries they may have outstanding.

A prototype itinerary of this nature is set out below:

Itinerary for Visit to: Date of Visit:

The following matters will be discussed:

A. New Product X. To quote prices and delivery position.

B. Complaint on Product Y. To investigate complaint and arrange replacement if considered necessary.

C. Product Y-Prices. To negotiate a new price structure to take effect 1st October next.

D. Damaged Deliveries. To investigate complaint of damage to recent deliveries allegedly due to inadequate packing.

E. New Competitive Product. To examine the new competitive product Brand Z and obtain samples, prices, etc., if possible.

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