Australian small businesses and exporters want to do business with large multinationals such as SUEZ, ALSTOM, BAYER, SAP, SIEMENS, AIR LIQUIDE, AIRBUS and why not the latest submarine contract holder Naval Group (formerly DCNS) as well? These are just a few examples.

What do have these companies have in common? They all are European businesses and they all have some form of operation in Australia. They also, all look like a labyrinth or a scary monster to smaller businesses. That is why I would like to share some insights on how we have done that for our clients at Exportia.

1. Have your positioning ready:

What is your value proposition to them, what problem are you solving in this specific industry? How big is the problem? Is it recognised by the industry as a problem? You need to check that your positioning resonates with the targeted multinational. When we approached the railway operator SNCF on behalf of TTG transportation technology, we talked to them about energy savings. I had some insider information that it was one of the top priorities at a high level in the company, so I had my way in. You also need to check how you are comparing to other providers, in terms of performance, price, customer service and after-sales support. The bottom line is: it’s all about what’s in it for them! And not about what you offer.

2. Find a common connection with them:

When I approach a large multinational on behalf of one of my clients. I, of course, look at my network first. Do I know anybody working there in Europe or in Australia? Can they recommend a contact for us? Many people use LinkedIn to get in touch with new contacts. My experience is that it fails if you don’t have anybody recommending you to that person. I value my network a lot, I am genuinely interested in what people do. It means when it comes to approaching someone and asking them for a warm recommendation, I am comfortable in asking for an introduction, it does not come out of the blue.

3. Consider you just have one shot:

I am quite straight forward when it comes to approaching someone in a large multinational. I tell that person precisely what I am after. I also make it easy for them, to forward my request to someone else. All the information is provided in a compact e-mail with a brochure attached. I also prepare it in the appropriate language, it can make it easier. Don’t assume English suits all Europeans. Your approach, of course, should be professional, responsive and polished, amateurism is banned.

4. Treat negative answers with care:

If you get a negative answer, still acknowledge, and thank the person for their time. You can also kindly ask the person for some feedback. I find that people are generally quite helpful. An important point is to ask if you may reach out to them again at a later stage if you find something that is more relevant to them. You may also ask them the authorisation to reach out if you ever need their expert advice. Interestingly, when it comes to innovative solutions, generally speaking, people want to stay on top of the latest innovation in their market, so they like to be informed of any innovation coming out. And they accept to stay in touch.

5. Develop your Key Account strategy:

Once you validated an initial interest from that multinational. Now you need to establish a strategy to enter that account. In some cases, you won’t be able to sell directly to that European multinational. You need to map out their decision-making process and the suppliers they are using for your specific product or solution. For example, large European multinationals usually have up to three preferred distributors that they use to source things such as, industrial tooling or safety equipment. How can you work with these suppliers/distributors? Again, your positioning is important, as you will need to use it when approaching that supplier. Use the interest of this multinational as your trading value with the distributor to get in.

6. Implement and persist:

I know it sounds dumb, but IMPLEMENTING the strategy is key. This is the hard part because we can all strategise in our board room, but only a great implementation pays off. Your mapping is done, your positioning is right, now you need to roll out. You need to actually get in this supply chain. Select the right partner, they need to be aligned with your objectives. You can only select and work with distributors that are actively working and developing their relationship with the large multinationals you are interested in. Now you need to get them interested, they need to see how you can fit in their range. Study their current range thoroughly and how it fits with you.

7. Activate your channel partner:

Now this is a full on process in itself. It deserves a whole article! The first key element is passing on your product knowledge down to them. You simply need to train their sales team and enable them for quick success with your products. There are so many ways to do that. I’d advise you to combine e-learning, with marketing material (in their language), face to face training, case studies in different industries and regular follow-ups. The key is for you to monitor the relationship with the key account while doing that. Your distributor will be interested in your ability to create interest among large multinationals, you will go up on their priority list. This is what you want. Also, keep checking in with these large accounts while working with the partner. You need to make sure they are well looked after. The value of a channel partner is that now it will multiply your reach and make sure you can not only reach one multinational but a hundred.

At Exportia, we have run and implemented that process for many of our Australian clients. So if you find you would like to accelerate your sales in Europe, contact me today and my team and we can get you started: