One of my regular monthly events is the Sales Leaders Peer2Peer at Communitech. This past week we did a session on International Sales for Ontario companies. We had some great presenters including Ned Nedungadi, an Export Development Advisor at Ministry of International Trade, Syed Sameer Ahmed, a Trade Commissioner at Global Affairs Canada, and Carlos Hernandez, the VP Sales Latin America for Sandvine. They shared some great advice on growing your international sales as well as the support and funding that is available from the Ontario and Federal Government. Most of the services offered are done free of charge to Ontario based organizations. The session was broken down into 3 sections. Here is a summary of each section.
Ontario Ministry of International Trade
- The Ministry of Trade (MIT) has many ways to support businesses to export their program. They have great information for organizations looking to get started with exporting. They have Export Trade Advisors in Ontario that can help work with your business. The MIT has resources that can provide market assessments on many high growth geographies.
- They also organize trade missions and events. Some of these events are in Ontario where foreign organizations come and meet with local companies. MIT goes to many international conferences and can provide affordable booth space in prime locations as part of a greater Ontario group.
- There are also a few different funding sources available for Ontario Exporters. There are programs that provide matching funds to support international sales expenses like conferences and travel. There is also a grant towards hiring an export manager.
- I have been involved with the MIT through both events and market assessments in the past. This is an excellent resource that should be leveraged.
Trade Commissioner Services at Global Affairs Canada
- The Trade Commissioner Services has people in 161 cities around the world. These resources on the ground can help better understand the market, help with introductions, and help when you run into trouble. There are Trade Commissioners throughout Canada that can help with the upfront planning and strategy.
- Global Affairs can also help with links to other organizations.
- They organize trade missions as well as support events in Canada. These can be a greats source of leads.
- Many of the programs are geared at growing international business outside of the US. Europe is becoming a bigger focus due to the CETA agreement being ratified through the EU.
- In 2016 the CanExport program was launched that provides funds for export related activities.
- I worked with a client that was exploring the UAE. The Trade Commissioner team was very helpful providing local knowledge and helping facilitate a number of meetings in Country.
Strategy from Carlos Hernandez
- Carlos has been successful growing International business for a couple tech firms in Waterloo region.
- Focus on a small number of countries to start. Pick these companies based on understanding the culture, market dynamics, and opportunity size. The market dynamics could relate to newly passed laws or a new technology that is needed.
- Supporting a new region or country can be expensive and time consuming. Stay focused, don’t get distracted by shinny things. As an example for one of the tech firms Carlos focused on Colombia as one of the initial targets. From their they focused on other Latin American organizations as they had a similar culture, global companies, and language.
- Find the early adopters within the country. They are typically smaller, but quicker to make a decision and try a new solution. You can then take that success and go after the larger market leaders within those countries. Work diligently within the geography before moving on to a new region.