Getting started as an export consltant
Choose relevant sectors
Start by choosing the sectors you want to focus on as an export consultant. Then match the sector with the market which you know most about.
You can start by studying the sectors in which Danish export businesses are already excelling. Then look at market opportunities in the market which you know about thanks to your education and background.
Denmark holds a strong position in markets within the following sectors:
- Building, construction and architecture
- Environment and energy
- Furniture, design, fashion and textiles
You could carry out a SWOT analysis of a couple of these sectors in relation to the country to which you want to help businesses export.
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Find a relevant business
The next step is to identify one or more businesses which you want to win as clients once you are ready to start up as an export consultant.
There are several ways of finding one or more businesses with which to work in the export markets.
Attend public events
One obvious possibility is to try and meet businesses at public events. This you can do by looking up and contacting the local business services office, industrial organisations, innovation projects, educational institutions, associations etc. for programmes, guidance and talks about the subject. Many conferences are held around Denmark where businesses and potential exporters are able to participate and hear more about new growth markets and develop their networks.
Use private and social networks
Perhaps there are people in your own network who have contacts with relevant businesses. Try using LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media as networking tools.
Contact business directly
You can, of course, contact a business which has aroused your interest directly to learn more. However, it is important that you are well-prepared and clear about the questions you want to ask as it is imperative that you create a good first impression. The damage done by a badly prepared and incoherent interview cannot be repaired.
Find growth businesses
You can also check the businesses named ‘gazelles’ by the Danish business daily ‘Børsen’, i.e. companies identified as belonging to Denmark’s growth elite. Read more about Børsen’s gazelle prize here (in Danish only). You must be a Børsen subscriber to see the lists of businesses.
Note: Keep an eye on the business
Once you have decided which business or businesses to focus on, it is important to gather as much information as possible about their export potential.
One way of establishing export potential is by compiling all available knowledge from the internet and keeping an eye on the business in the media and on its website.
Is the business growing, in decline or stagnating, and what is its future strategy for growth?
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Analyse export potential
Once you have chosen the business which you want to work with, you should analyse its export potential. Map out its motives, readiness as well as its strengths and weaknesses in relation to exporting.
When offering your services as an export consultant, it is your task to map out the business’s export potential. Then you can present your analysis and more easily persuade the business of the advantages of working with you as an export consultant.
In analysing the export potential of the business, you can address the following topics:
- Export motive
- Export readiness
- SWOT analysis
A business may have many good reasons for wanting to export. You can clarify its motives by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the business already exporting, and to which markets?
- Does the business have a proactive reason for exporting, and does the business have a strong desire to export to new markets and generate further growth?
- Or is its motive for exporting more reactive, and has the desire to export arisen as part of a defensive survival strategy?
- Are the motives born of internal or external factors?
Once you have narrowed down the business’s export motive, your analysis can take a close look at how ready the business is to start exporting its products and services.
Analyse the business’s export readiness. Does the business have what it takes to start exporting to a new market?
Export readiness depends, among other things, on:
- The management’s commitment and experience with exports
- Knowledge of export procedures Does the business already engage in exporting, or is it a new activity?
- Language skills
- Capital structure
Where you discover gaps in your analysis may be where you, as a freelance export consultant, are able to offer the business your expertise.
Do a SWOT analysis
After having analysed the business’s motives and export readiness, it is sometimes a good idea to do a SWOT analysis of the business’s export potential. Find as many ‘opportunities’ as possible. Also find a few ‘weaknesses’ which you can help the business address in your capacity as a consultant. Your credibility may suffer if you don’t present a number of challenges for the business and for your collaboration. However, it is a very good idea to be able to present a solution to these challenges.
Don’t expect to be able to do a complete SWOT analysis from home, but instead finish the analysis in collaboration with the business when holding your meeting with them. This will give you and the business a much better understanding of your respective approaches and whether the two match.
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Prepare an Export Action Plan
It may be a good idea to prepare a short-term Export Action Plan setting out key steps, milestones and objectives which you can present to a business that wants to start exporting its products or services.
Small and medium-sized enterprises often do not have unlimited resources to spend on market surveys and strategies. Your expertise and knowledge about the market in question can therefore be extremely valuable for the business. Prepare an Export Action Plan, which clarifies for the business what it takes to start exporting.
Export Action Plan
An Export Action Plan is based on a market analysis [LINK], and may, for example, be a plan for implementing a marketing strategy, a financial analysis or a logistics plan.
Divide the Export Action Plan into several phases, for example:
- Validation phase
- Test phase
- Implementation period
One way of identifying overall objectives for the three phases might be to complete the template below. In doing so, you will be forced to consider and map out the milestones, action steps, challenges, expectations re results and methods for measuring the results.
Example of an Action Plan for a marketing strategy. Download the template in Word
Use your competencies and work with others
In your Export Action Plan, it is important to take account of your own competencies and limitations. If you or the business do not possess all the professional competencies which are necessary, find relevant partners who will be able to contribute expertise as required. For example legal experts, communication consultants, interpretors etc.
Be there in person
If possible, ask to have an office space made available to you at the business premises while carrying out your analyses for the Export Action Plan. All the relevant persons whose knowledge about the business and its products you need will then all be within arm’s reach. This greatly facilitates the process, and thus costs the business less.
Focus on swift results and a short-term plan
Most SMEs want to see fast results, and it may therefore make sense to produce a short-term action plan. Prepare the plan so that the business is able to see, within the next 8-9 months, the potential associated with exporting its products and services.
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Contact the business
It is very important that you understand the business’s culture, and target your communication accordingly when contacting the business with a view to presenting your ideas as an export consultant.
For example, it may be useful to have an idea of how long you need to wait before following up on your first
email. Here, you need to give the recipient time to read your email after reading all the other emails which they have received in the course of the day and to consider your proposal. Therefore do not contact the person too soon – but do not leave it for too long either.
Follow the advice below when contacting a business for the first time.
Email/sales letter based on the AIDA model
Your first step is to write an email in which you present your export proposal with a view to following up by telephone. Tailor your language to the style which the business signals on its website. Are you writing to highly qualified individuals, or more down-to-earth types?
Your email will be competing with many others. The AIDA model will help your email to stand out and ensure that it is read. AIDA stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
In the email, say when you intend to follow up by telephone, and stick to this date. Do not expect the business to call you – it is up to you to take action.
Following up by phone
The next step is to follow up by telephone; here you need to be ready to describe your idea in more detail. The purpose of the email and the follow-up phone call is to be able to take the third step, i.e. schedule a personal meeting, which gives you the opportunity to explain your idea and sell your competencies.
Prepare thoroughly for the interview. Have your elevator talk ready so that you can quickly and succinctly present yourself and your idea. Bring along your SWOT analysis, ideally adding the finishing touches to it togeher with the person you are meeting. You need to be able to present solutions to any weaknesses and threats while talking about all the opportunities and strengths you see for the business and your collaboration on establishing exports to new markets.
Your personal appearance will have a strong bearing on whether or not you succeed in selling yourself and your idea. During the first 10-20 seconds, the person you are meeting will have formed an impression of you and thus your services. Remember that you are communicating both verbally and non-verbally.
Perhaps use your network of Danes who are experienced with Danish business culture as a sounding board on your communication with the business. Address the needs of the business, and openly present your competencies, your experience and your commitment as a freelance export consultant.
- Find out about the business and what the business needs.
- Pay attention to your body language.
- Avoid using technical terms and expressions out of context.
- Be positive and smile. This conveys self-confidence and inspires trust.
- Dress appropriately. The classic example is the choice between a suit or a pair of jeans. At the end of the day, you should wear what feels most comfortable.
- Finally, remember to switch off your mobile phone.
Pitch your Export Action Plan
It is important that you carefully consider how to pitch your Export Action Plan to a business. In the case of a short, spur-of-the-moment meeting, an ‘elevator talk’ is relevant, while a ‘pitch’ is more appropriate and valuable for a longer sales meeting.
The word ‘pitching’ stems from baseball, where the pitcher kicks off play and determines what the other players do. This is what you need to do as an independent freelance export consultant when selling your export idea to the business. Pitching is also useful as a way of building on and developing an elevator talk.
It is a good idea to prepare a so-called ‘elevator talk’, which you will often need for network or spur-of-the-moment meetings. The elevator talk is an ultra-short sales presentation of yourself and your business which you give when you meet someone from an SME who might be interested in your export assistance.
Imagine that you meet someone from the SME in an elevator, and she asks: “What do you do?” She is going up to the third floor, giving you only 30 seconds to clearly explain your work.
Your 30-second elevator talk should cover the following:
- Who you are
- Your potential clients
- Which consultancy services you offer to export businesses
- The results you have previously achieved for other businesses
- What value you can give the potential client
The message must be so clear and unambiguous that the listener, on stepping out of the elevator, says: “That’s just what I need. Give me a call so you can tell me more about it.”
The pitch is used to present your Export Action Plan in greater length at a scheduled business meeting. A successful pitch holds your listeners’ attention and keeps them interested. You must build a relationship, engender trust and show that you are part of their team.
These five factors can help to create a good pitch for your export idea:
- Be specific: Explain exactly what you have to offer. Perhaps take a look at the areas where Danish SMEs seek export assistance
- Be visual: Make a visual presentation of the plan and show the business how it can boost revenue by exporting to a new market
- Be succinct: You need to be focused to hold your listeners’ attention
- Instil confidence: As an export consultant, you are basically trying to point the business in a new direction. Convince your listeners, so the SME feels confident in trying something new.
- Focus on results: Talk about your results and practical experience with exports or the particular market which is relevant for the business.