Confirming that a good, open mind is essential to have when tackling a new market, I’d like to share a story that recently happened to a company where I’m working as a part-time export sales manager. (We’re talking about a product that is very customized).

We were looking for agents to help us enter the German market so I searched the web, analyzed the competition and ran listings on dedicated sites. There were many phone calls but with few results. Plan B entailed contacting some potential customers, both to offer our products as well as to collect the names of potential agents.

Then, the surprise. We went to a trade fair in Munich to meet with an agent who had shown a timid interest and found out from him that there were a couple of German competitors he knew that might be interested in us. Our products are popular in many industries – more so than in Italy – and German manufacturers are so overloaded with orders that they must also work Saturday mornings (German companies usually close on Fridays at 2.00 p.m. to start the Wochenende). Our contact thereby passed on to us, as a courtesy, the names of a couple of manufacturers. I contacted them and, not long after, got us our first Anfrage (inquiry)…by one of our German competitors!

I do not think that working as a sub-supplier is the right strategy for obtaining a position in any market, at least for this type of company. But I also believe that it can be a way to break the ice, to learn (the first request has already forced us to look at changes to the product) and, finally, find a way in through the “front door” of a new market!