Whether you’re thinking about turning your company into an importer or exporter or are already one, there are challenges that have to be addressed. Times are changing and so is consumerism, and understanding the industry is challenging. Randall Castillo Ortega, an entrepreneur and import/export expert from Costa Rica, provides tips to help entrepreneurs excel.

In foreign trade, three phases determine the concentration of the business project in the target market. The first is commercial sales operations abroad. For this, a commercial intermediary is sufficient to collect the goods in port and market them. The second is collaboration with a regional ally who takes care of the entire process. The third is the implementation of production, a decision taken by few SMEs.

Although there are brilliant exceptions, if it is developing markets or emerging countries, the suggestion is to start the foreign enterprise accompanied. The work of a local partner will pave the way for you and avoid surprises. With a distributor or commercial agent, you save the logistics structure, offices, staff and transport. Remember that at first, evaluating the costs is a priority.

Whether as an exhibitor or as a visitor, expos and fairs will allow you to know the market conditions and make contacts with potential partners and suppliers. That’s right. Choose well. Focus on the sectoral and professionalized ones. It is a task that requires a lot of dedication at the beginning. “Sometimes, we’ve gone to two fairs in a row,” explains Castillo. “After dismantling the stand of the first, we have changed in the bathrooms of the airport on duty the jacket suits for comfortable clothes, to fly that night to another country, and start again the next day with the assembly of the stand of the second fair.”

There are several terms that must be familiar to import/export business operators, as they are part of the fundamental documentation in foreign operations. The first is commercial documents. It includes the commercial invoice, pro forma invoice, certificate of origin (processed by the Chambers of Commerce) and content list or parking list (description of the merchandise). Customs is another one – it is important to understand the customs laws and regulations for both the receiving and the sending countries. Transport, including road, rail, sea and air transport charter, is also a common terms, as is Certificates, including insurance, health certificates, etc.

The correct choice of a partner or supplier is a key factor in the process you have started. The expos are an excellent showcase to get in touch with them, but be wary of those who want to close an agreement on the spot. Before initialing anything, look for information about that potential partner or supplier: the size of the company, production, talk to companies that have worked with it, its financial solvency (in the case of a partner) and compliance with delivery deadlines (supplier). “Once the decision has been made,” explains Castillo, “it is essential that a relationship of trust and knowledge is created, both mutual and of the product or service offered and the market. For the partnership to strengthen the company, making it more competitive, it is key that the chosen partner has a good network of contacts and the ability to expand it, as well as financial stability.”

Choosing the right payment provider is always stressful. The choice depends on the country, volume and trust with the customer. For occasional and low volume orders, better bank transfer or payment order; it can be simple or documentary, depending on whether or not the beneficiary requires the presentation of any proof. The expenses derived from the bank fees are borne by each party. If you have full confidence in your client, do not hesitate, the international bank check is the simplest, most economical and secure means of collection. Other more complex means used in operations of a certain importance are remittance and documentary credit.

There are two ways to protect your invention. The PCT system or international application, with which through a single document you request protection of your invention in a total of 128 countries. The other way is the application for the European patent, in which you designate those States in which you want the protection of your invention.

In a commercial offer to an international customer, you cannot miss the description of the product, quantity, shipping conditions, delivery and payment, price and currency. Of all of them the price has special relevance since it will determine the competitiveness of your product in the chosen market. How to calculate it? Notes. To the final sale price in destination, you have to add the distribution margins; transportation and insurance costs; customs duties and charges; financial expenses; communication expenses; trading margin and cost price.

The decision to go abroad using the Internet as a sales channel is more than advisable in these times. You save costs and eliminate intermediaries. That’s right. To transform your website into an export channel, the first thing is to review its structure. Make sure that it can support peak sales dates (ask your supplier to make a simulation of that assumption), that the platform is multi-language and multi-currency (you choose which one or which ones according to the target market or markets), that it has a payment gateway (the equivalent of the POS of any trade), is optimized for search engines, allows a complete management of orders and customers (shopping cart), has a calculation of shipping costs and has stock control.

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