Prospecting is the process of gathering a list of potential customers or buyers. After all, before you can approach a particular buyer, you need to know who the buyer is. Generally you will identify your list of buyers at the same time as undertaking your export marketing research. Indeed, one of the objectives of your research effort should be to come up with a list of potential buyers.

But compiling a list of buyers is not enough. You still need ‘qualified’ these buyers, which means that they need to be assessed to see if there is business potential, otherwise you could be wasting your time. In order to qualify your foreign prospects, you need to:

  • Focus on the needs of the customer
  • Determine which products or services you produce best meet their needs
  • In order to save time, rank the prospects and leave out those that are least likely to buy from you (and obviously start with those with the most potential)

Buyers versus end-users

It is worth considering that your buyer may not be the end user of your product. For example, if you sell children’s toys, the end user may be the child that uses your product and the parent that buys the toy, but your customer may be an import agent or wholesaler of toys in the target market you have selected. You may believe that the end user will really want your product or find it useful, but your first task will be to convince the buyer that the product is not only suitable for the end user, but is also a good product for the buyer to purchase as part of his/her firm’s product selection. You need to be aware that the buyer may have other objectives and considerations that have nothing to do with the end user. For example, the buyer may be looking for products that complement his/her current range of products or that allow the firm to enter a new market segment. It is important, therefore, that you explore what it is that drives the buyer’s purchasing activities.