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Becoming an exporter

10 tips on selling overseas

Taking the step to becoming an exporter is exciting, if a little daunting. These tips from the Department for International Trade (DIT) could help. 

1. Review your export potential

You should take time to consider the realities of exporting, the implications for all aspects of your business and any assistance you may need, to be sure that this is a step you really want to take.

Start by checking out DIT’s tools, guidance and export opportunities – and downloading the government’s guide on how to sell overseas [PDF, 6.4MB].

2. Develop an action plan

Putting a plan together is an important step to get you started – set clear objectives and try to be realistic about what you can achieve within a given timescale.

DIT’s regional offices around England can help you develop a tailored action plan that sets out a workable strategy, and review it regularly to ensure it's on track. Invest Northern Ireland, Scottish Enterprise and Business Wales provide a similar service in their respective countries. Their assistance may include adapting your product or service to a specific market or making changes to your website to encourage sales, such as internationalising your website.

3. Research and visit your prospective markets

Research is essential to help you understand your chosen markets and to reduce risk, because each is unique in its own way. You'll find lots of useful information on exporting to countries around the world on DIT ’s website.
DIT also offers export training and advice on techniques for market selection, to help you answer questions such as:

  • What are your objectives?
  • How easy is the market to break into?
  • What is the demand for your product or service likely to be?
  • What criteria are important to you?

Taking part in overseas events, trade fairs or missions is a good way to do some field research to test markets, attract customers, appoint agents or distributors and make sales.
Events are listed on DIT’s website and the Tradeshow Access Programme also provides a calendar of useful exhibitions and conferences.

Other resources include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which offers economic fact sheets for over 180 countries, and DIT’s Overseas Business Risk service, which provides strategic information on business security issues.



4. Find out how to enter your chosen market

There are lots of options to help you establish a presence in an overseas market, including using an agent, a distributor, e-commerce or a franchise. You could also choose to sell straight to retailers or direct from business to business, through a joint venture, subsidiary or existing contacts in your chosen market. The suitability of these options will depend on your company and products.

DIT offers workshops throughout the year to assist businesses in making the right choice in their route to markets – see if there’s a workshop near you.

DIT provides advice and guidance through its international network to narrow down your decision-making and its online marketplace-finder tool is a good place to start for breaking into overseas markets through e-commerce.


5. Think about sales, marketing and distribution of your products

Consider carefully how you’ll promote and sell your product or service over longer distances, as you may need to change your current strategy to fit your export market.

Think about every element of the marketing mix to make sure you’re competitive – this includes the uniqueness of your offer, its price, location and distribution channel. Use a range of channels and tailor your communications with direct messages to connect with your target audiences.

The kind of goods you export, the level of demand and the type of costs involved can all dictate how you sell and distribute your products or services. 

Assess your true cost of sale by calculating the amount of money spent on production, distribution, sales and marketing, so that you can analyse current revenue and predict for the future.

6. Be aware of cultural and language challenges

Another key aspect of selling and marketing your products or services overseas is to consider cultural and language differences. Make sure you research so that you can build effective relationships and avoid misunderstandings.

DIT can offer advice on cultural awareness and effective communication in other countries.

7. Be prepared to manage finance and payments

Choosing the most appropriate methods of payment and pricing are important decisions in managing your cashflow, and will depend on your product, customers and market conditions. Putting in place a secure and efficient method to process payments should be one of your top priorities when entering the international market.

As well as your bank and DIT, you can get support from UK Export Finance (UKEF), the government’s export credit agency, which offers loan insurance and bank guarantees to help all types of companies to win, fulfil and get paid for export contracts. Its network of export finance managers around the UK works with companies to find the right support, whether directly from UKEF or from private sector providers.

8. Consider the risks

Managing risk is an important part of exporting and there are several categories to consider. 

Some of the most important are commercial risks (such as non-payment, insolvency, contract disputes, overdue payments or risks to your intellectual property, brand and reputation), political risks (such as change of government, war, riots, terrorism, border disputes and changes in law) and country-specific issues like exchange and inflation rates.

For more information on these risks, take a look at these sites:

As a Barclays customer you can get a 20% discount with Coface for insurance against potential loss from non-paying trading partners. Log in to Online Banking, select ‘Rewards and offers’ and then ‘Barclays Business Abroad’ to benefit from this offer.

9. Protect your intellectual property

Protecting your intellectual property will prevent other businesses copying your products or stealing your trade secrets in the countries you’re exporting to.

The Intellectual Property Office offers support and advice on all four main forms of intellectual property – patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. Speak to your local DIT International Trade Adviser for initial guidance.

10. Get ready to fulfil your orders and make sure your documentation is right

It's important to know at an early stage which regulations and legal requirements must be complied with, and which trading terms might apply, as the consequences of breaking laws and regulations in other countries can be significant.

We can help you save 25% on professionally prepared export documents from Acorn International, plus you can manage the process through its online self-service system. As above, you can log in to Online Banking, and select ‘Rewards and offers’ and then ‘Barclays Business Abroad’ to take advantage of this discount.

There’s more information on legal and regulatory issues, including training options, at:

We at Barclays support the Exporting is GREAT campaign. To find out more about the campaign, visit DIT’s website.

Just so you know, this article was first published by DIT.

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