By Nynzi Maung, NECC’s Access Programme Leader

Kick starting the first in a new series of expert insight articles exploring how the North East and wider UK businesses can exploit opportunities in Brazil, India and Russia, in this article we are going to be considering whether British companies are, when it comes to promoting their product or service, selling themselves short.

I recently came across an article on the Institute of Directors’ website, written by an American entrepreneur titled ‘What UK businesses must do to boost international expansion’. The author asserted that in comparison to other nations, the British are not very good at selling themselves.

Whilst I didn’t agree with the article in its entirety, I started to wonder whether UK businesses are sometimes guilty of selling themselves short – particularly when it comes to their own products or services.

After sharing these thoughts with my professional network, locally, some useful insight arose as to how businesses – many of whom are doing an excellent job selling overseas – can improve their selling techniques.

Selling yourself top tip 1: Use the British reputation to your advantage

Analyse and assess your company’s particular added value for a client. Being British holds a considerable sway in some markets so be sure to build on this.

In the instance of Russia, the executive director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, Trevor Barton, explains: “Understand the power of the UK’s reputation in Russia for quality, reliability and honesty. UK-based companies should take advantage of this when marketing themselves and their products, whilst of course doing nothing to undermine that reputation!

Selling yourself top tip 2: It’s a long-term relationship you’re selling

For each of the markets of Brazil, India and Russia, you’re not selling a product or service – you’re hopefully entering into a long-term, mutually beneficial and profitable relationship.

Dr Stan Higgins, CEO of North East Industry Process Cluster, agrees with this and advises: “Having spent time helping companies find new business in India I have found the only way of getting good, reliable business is to visit regularly attend sector events and be persistent. Invest the time to find that trusted local partner and remember that business is a two way experience.”

Selling yourself top tip 3: Understand what your potential clients really need

Just because your offering sells well in one market doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for another, even if it is in the same sector.

You need to understand your potential client’s needs. You’re providing them with the solution to their problem – effortlessly, cost effectively and better than anyone else, so have confidence in that.

Selling yourself top tip 4: Be professional – invest in expertise

Executive director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, Trevor Barton, explains: “Surround yourself with good advisers and facilitators – customs agents, lawyers, tax advisers – people who have experience in the chosen market. Money spent earlier on getting reliable advice will save much expense and heartache in the long run.”

British Consul in Recife, Gareth Moor, supports this view. He explains: “It’s really important to do an initial market visit and speak with organisations such as UKTI. Our experts can give invaluable advice and save you hundreds of man hours, introduce you to key local contacts and distributors, and, crucially, can put you in touch with reliable lawyers and accountants – essential for doing business in countries such as Brazil.”

There is a wealth of experience and knowledge available to novice exporters. In a nutshell, shy bairns really do get nowt hence why a bold approach towards selling a business is needed. A positive and confident outlook is essential – but it needs to be underpinned by a solid professional approach based on excellent research, which will stand UK businesses in good stead for successful export relations.