Yes! You’ve got the order!

At last, after all the hard work, trips abroad, planning, negotiations and quotations your potential customer has decided to give you a chance and has agreed to accept your last quotation. This confirmation may come via either a verbal or written confirmation of the order. You are very excited; this order (also referred to as an indent or importer’s indent – the term indent is merely another word for an order) justifies all of your earlier efforts! Nevertheless, you still need to keep your wits about you. The really hard and risky work will only start now.

Make sure you have a written order and guarantee of payment

Your first action is to ensure that you receive written confirmation of the order. It’s a tough, merciless world out there and there are many companies that will happily try and con you out of your products. They will try and encourage you to supply the goods up front, with the promise of payment later. I have personally had experience of companies in South Africa having delivered the export goods and then waiting for months on the promise of a payment which never arrives. Unless this is what you agreed to (sales on consignment, for example), you should not embark on any production or actual exports that will cost you money without a secure promise of payment (usually in the form of a letter of credit). Established and reputable international firms will understand this; they will not expect you to incur costs and start production unless they have provided (a) confirmation of the order, and (b) confirmation of payment. Remember that even a written order is not confirmation of an order. You will generally want to see a copy of the L/C (confirmed by a local bank) before you will feel comfortable moving ahead with the export order.

Read the order carefully

We have already pointed out that the L/C or written export order is a very important document. You will need to keep to its parameters exactly. You cannot expect to deviate from the order and then still get paid. This may seem an obvious statement to make, but many companies read the order very superficously, tending rather to recall what was agreed upon at their last meeting with the buyer. In the meantime, the buyer may have changed some small (or important) aspect of the agreement as you understood it (deliberately or by error). For example, you may have agreed at your last meeting to payment in 30 days and the buyer has instead indicated that the payment terms are 60 days. If you do not read the export order/letter of credit through carefully (and then read it again!), you may miss out on some issue that affects your ability to service the order successfully.

Keep the communication channels open with the buyer

Once you have received the order, the first thing you should do is to contact the buyer and confirm your receipt of the order and to express your thanks for his/her trust in your company. You should keep the channels of communication open with the buyer during the time ahead as you proceed with the order, informing him/her where you stand with the order and that you are still on track. If you experience any problems, rather communicate these problems to the buyer as early as possible – the buyer will appreciate your early warning. Do not try and bluff your way through a problem that you know is likely to delay your ability to deliver. If you fail to deliver, you cannot expect the buyer to support you again in the future. If you play open cards, however, the serious buyer may well cancel the deal – this is a chance you take – but the chances are equally good that he/she will try to accommodate you by accepting later delivery times or perhaps a change in product specifications, and will appreciate your openness.

Get moving with the order!

Upon receipt of the order and confirming the order with the buyer, your next step is to begin producing the order. You may already have stock on hand and servicing the order may be as easy as packing and shipping the order. It is more likely, however, that you may need to begin producing the goods according to the agreed upon specifications. This may require a major adjustment in your current production schedule and you may even need to adjust your manufacturing process in some way to accommodate the new products. For this reason, it is essential that you communicate the recipt of the order to all of the managers in the firm that need to know, such as the finance manager, the production manager, the procurement manager, etc. You will need their support if you are to succeed with this order and the first step in the process may be to arrange a meeting with all the parties concerned to decide on the way forward and to identify any pootential stumbling blocks as early as possible.