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How to Make International Sales without Leaving Home


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Doug Barry, senior international trade specialist with the Trade Informatio

A best-kept secret is that domestic trade shows are great places to meet and sell to international buyers. U.S. businesses that have discovered this relatively low-cost channel for drumming up new sales claim that exhibiting at the “right” shows can fill their order books for the entire year.

It may sound counter intuitive to make international sales without leaving the U.S., but the fact is that international buyers are attracted to large trade shows in the U.S. And let’s not forget the draw of Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and other big trade show venues.

So what are the “right” shows out of the hundreds held annually across the country? It depends on the industry you are in, but the first tier of shows to consider is those that offer the International Buyer Program (IBP), a service that facilitates buyer-seller matchmaking and made possible by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service. IBP is an important part of the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

Shows are competitively selected each year based on their attractiveness to buyers in industries and countries that are considered best prospects for U.S. suppliers. The range of industries this year is broad and includes obvious ones such as construction, power generation and restaurant equipment, as well as less obvious ones like dental hardware and funeral supplies. Come to think of it death has always been a growth industry, and although post-life practices may vary by culture and country the market is enduringly global.

With almost 40 International Buyer Program shows to choose from many U.S. businesses will find one that’s suited to them. Ideally, the process begins by contacting your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, part of the worldwide network operated by the Commerce Department. You can also call 1-800-USA-TRADE.

Export experts will help prepare you to use services at the show to meet the international buyers that are recruited by U.S. embassies. Preliminary contact and information exchanges are arranged beforehand, but the real business is done on the show floor and in a special area called the International Business Centers, which feature conference rooms for conducting negotiations. There is no charge for these services, but you will need to arrange and pay for exhibit space at the show.

Billions of dollars in sales are registered each year, and most of the U.S. companies making the sales are smaller companies. So now that we’ve pulled the cover off this formerly best-kept secret, watch the attached four videos on the IBP and see how companies like yours are selling globally without going far from home.

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