Business leaders across the UK are starting up, scaling up, happily maintaining levels of business growth or concerned about sales figures and how to sustain their business. The chances are that as a business owner, leader or sales director your business is at one of these stages and looking for new ways to grow, find new customers - or at least ensure you retain your existing ones. So what can you do better to future-proof your sales and business growth? Let’s first take a very brief look at your export growth strategy.
1. Your ambition
Consider your export growth ambition and what may be holding your back from achieving your full potential. Often the answer is not a simple one to unpick, with numerous factors coming into play – are the barriers you are facing perceived or real? Talk this through at team and board level and bring in a third party (such as an International Trade Adviser) to challenge your thinking.
2. Your services or products
Most services and products are exportable, but perhaps you haven’t thought about what you sell in this way. Are your services or products suitable for exporting? Take a look at what your competitors are doing and also where your current leads and enquiries come from. – Does this give you an indication? Often you will need to adapt your offer to meet local market needs such as: language and cultural (packaging, labelling, design); legal (e.g. certification, licensing); environmental factors (climate – influences on transportation, storage and sales seasonality) but this can often be done with the right insight and advice.
3. Your routes to new markets
Finding the most lucrative routes to market can be difficult without market insight and people on the ground with local knowledge. Conducting thorough market research can help you to avoid costly pitfalls and inform a strategic, rather than reactive, approach to exporting. Often exporting starts in response to an enquiry or direct approach, but while it’s a start, there may be more lucrative ways of sustainably growing your exports. Select the right markets, the most profitable routes to market e.g. via agents/distributors, targeted direct sales, e-exporting, licensing and prioritise these.
4. Your people
Languages and cultural understanding are amongst the biggest barriers to international sales growth, but there are ways and means of overcoming these – this is a big topic in itself. Consider your team’s leadership and management capability, exporting skills and any gaps that can be addressed via recruitment and succession planning.
The chances are you have concerns about how to finance your export growth and how you will get paid by overseas customers. There are numerous options and it is well worth discussing these with your bank and accountant. There is funded support available via UK Export Finance and local business support organisations such as GC Business Finance, Access to Finance and the Department for International Trade. Obtain professional advice on how to manage currencies, payments and taxation.
When it comes to logistics, if you’re selling services this may be the least of your worries, but if you’re selling goods it will be important to plan your shipping, storage and how you will handle enquiries, invoicing and export documentation. Whether you are selling services or goods it may be appropriate to open an overseas operation and obtain legal, financial and HR advice to assist with this. You will need to consider how you will scale up production or your service delivery team to meet demand too – a nice problem to have!