If you have experienced business success in your homegrown activities, you may be considering whether you can extend that success to foreign climes. The only problem is that you have not done business in these regions and do not know anyone on the ground. Just how do you go about making connections with people in foreign countries if you have never done so before?
Review your network
The best place to start to find new foreign contacts is within your existing business network. You could, for example, increase your foreign business knowledge through a contact who already has an international side to their business. Depending on how well you know them, you could pick their brains to gain some valuable tips for making new connections.
Alternatively, use social media and business websites to join international groups and networks. Start taking part in online discussions to gather information about the markets that you are considering entering into, ask questions, and receive experienced advice. You may find that you have got in touch with someone in your desired market region and so have therefore managed to establish a foreign connection. Always remember, however, that you need to give as well as take when engaging in this kind of networking. You will soon make enemies rather than friends if all you do is post questions and ask for help without ever offering any yourself.
You need to be genuine about yourself and your goals when engaging with your network. People will know if you are just probing for information or assistance, so always be generous with your comments and your praise. However, what is also undeniable is that many people, including business people, like to be courted, so if you have identified a potential business contact, you could do worse than inviting them to stay at a hotel near you, all expenses paid, so that you can get to know one another better. If this is impractical or just a tad too expensive, perhaps a gift would work just as well. Never make it seem like a bribe, just an incentive.
You could extend the idea of a close relationship in other ways too. For example, make a note of your contact’s family birthdays or upcoming anniversaries and send a greeting card to show that you have remembered their special occasion. Little touches like these can go a long way to cementing a business relationship.
Once you have identified your potential foreign market, you should make a point of visiting it in person. The internet is a great resource for information, but nothing will beat actually stepping foot in another country and getting a taste of the culture. If you have already begun the setup of your foreign-based business, you should most definitely fly out to the place to not only see how your business is operating but also to keep an eye on the people you are using to do so. To ensure that you do not exceed your budget for such a journey, search online for a reputable operator that offers deals to the place you need to travel to, such as World Escapes. You could also take the opportunity to make other business contacts in the area. Ask your existing contacts if they know of anyone who would be interested in meeting up while you are there and then get in touch to make an appointment.
You should also make the effort to learn a little of the native customs of your preferred location, as well as learning some of the local language if it is different from your own. Again, this is a little touch that can go a long way with your new contacts, as it shows that you are not arrogant in expecting them to know your language and making no concession towards theirs. Be sensitive to your surroundings, and do not make jokes about local customs or people that your contact may find offensive. While it is not possible to predict what may be considered offensive and what may not, you should learn this as you get to know your contacts. The best approach is to play it by ear.
The fact is that most people, in and out of business, prefer to associate with people they know, people they can put a face to, and in whom they feel confident of being able to place their trust. Always go out of your way to build a personal relationship rather than relying on technology and money to do it for you.