You know the feeling as a customer when you really, really want to buy something and the person or company that should really, really (in theory) want to sell it to you, seems to make every effort to stop you from buying it. Think of buying just the most simple of things (a jacket, a perfume, a book). Customer service is appalling, product information is non existent, pricing is confusing, there is no stock (or reliable information of when there will be stock)… and you haven’t even seen the real product yet.

The same happens in exports. I have observed British businesses at different stages of exporting to Latin America, and a lot of the times deals are lost on the incapacity of the exporter to be ready for these markets on time. Similarly, things move so much quicker when everything is in place. All I ask exporters for, when dealing with Latin America (which is unlikely to be your first export market and therefore has given you a nice time to get prepared) is MAKE IT EASY.

How? Just four thoughts for today:

1-    Make your pricing SIMPLE. Use Incoterms. If internally things are more complicated than one price list, think how you can communicate it in a simpler way. Remember that most Latin Americans will be used to dealing in USD, maybe Euros, but very unlikely to deal in GBP (it doesn’t mean you can’t quote in GBP, but remember it adds an extra layer of complication for your customer, and risk).

2-    Make your shipping SIMPLE. You need to study this carefully in advance but a potential distributor can get very muddled up if you start confusing shipping from the UK, plus from your manufacturing plant in China, but then you offer consolidating, but then you add different shipping costs… Make it clear, simple and upfront. How nice is it reading on an ecommerce site “Flat UK delivery rate, £3 and free over £50” as opposed to a rate card of shipping options? If shipping is indeed very complex and you just can’t minimise the complexity of it, at least be very upfront and clear about it.

3-    Pricing and shipping, just like any other information, will become a lot clearer if in the language of your potential client (for Latin America, Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese). Don’t assume everyone can understand complex quotes in English, and especially not complex T&Cs. Make the effort to translate this basic information and you will be a step ahead from your competitors. It costs a lot less than you might think. From experience, Spanish/Portuguese catalogues always get read, English ones might not… Often the (older generation…) decision maker does not speak English and as enthusiastic as a middle/junior manager can be (with fluent English), with hierarchical Latin American business structures, your catalogue will not make it to the top. I spoke to a Mexican distributor on behalf of a client last week. They are in the border with the US. There are 20 people in the business. Only 1 speaks Spanish…

4-    Make your stock simple. I heard this on the phone last week from a large Chilean distributor “I don’t care what the production runs are, where they manufacture or what they have in which warehouse. That is not my business. I want to know if what I want to order is available today and if not, when it will be available”.

Sometimes we talk about “serving export markets”. Service is the key word. Britain does not usually excel at it, which is a shame, because it jeopardises in many cases its otherwise amazing exports. Having said that, some businesses master simplicity in export customer service. I don’t have to tell you who are the successful ones.