Meeting with your current or potential foreign customers and partners is fundamental to establishing and maintaining a profitable relationship.
In general, except for an established customer and/or a very important order, it does not make much sense to make a trip to meet only one interlocutor, but it is also good to plan other meetings with customers or other intermediaries / local partners to optimize the costs and effectiveness of the trip.
For this reason it is difficult to plan a business trip from today to tomorrow and it is necessary to prepare it in time.
Let’s see together which are the most delicate stages and which you absolutely must not forget:
Prepare your meeting
define your goals in advance and share the agenda with your counterpart (via email).
If you have never met the other party in person, it makes sense to introduce yourself and your company at the first meeting. So preparing a short speech and a presentation/movie is useful to “melt the ice”.
prepare the negotiation or the object of the meeting: if you are already at an advanced stage you will have to have with you all the material already shared and all that you think may be useful; it would be crazy to go 3000 kilometers to find that you would have needed a drawing / technical sheet that you do not have with you!
set yourself the right objectives: signing a contract is only plausible if you are actually very close to it and the details have already been discussed in previous comparisons
left with specific actions and deadlines (eg. “by tomorrow morning I’ll send you an email summary with what we agreed” or “by Monday morning you send me the confirmation email so that I, in the office, I can manage the file” or “I’ll call you at the beginning of next week to have your final green light to start the project”)
If you stay at least one night, it may be useful to invite the other party to dinner (if he does not do so). It is important to have informal meetings to increase knowledge and empathy and, why not, to continue negotiations in a more relaxed context.
Prepare yourself in advance: for example, by helping yourself with tools such as Tripadvisor (but also by informing the staff of the hotel where you are a guest), select a couple of renowned venues. But be careful: if you don’t know your counterpart well, you can choose between restaurants with local, vegetarian menus. In short, depending on where you go, take into account the local culture and customs.
Do you need an interpreter?
How do you communicate with the other party? Do you speak the same language or have you used an employee or communication partner? If so, can the employee/partner support you in the meeting? If this is not possible, you should think of an interpreter.
Bringing an interpreter from Italy is uneconomical, you have to look for a freelance interpreter (usually cheaper) or contact a local agency. Usually the cost consists of a fee per day + any out-of-pocket expenses (transfers, meals, overnight stays) so the ideal would be for the interpreter to be domiciled in the city where the meeting takes place.
Do you bring products/samples with you?
If so, are these easily transportable with your person or is it necessary to provide for an ad hoc expedition? In the second case, the following considerations apply:
The country you are travelling to may impose import restrictions on your products (e.g. customs duties, certifications, import licences, etc.).
You must also have a clear idea whether the products you take with you will be sold (immediately or later) or must be re-imported. In the first case you will have to comply with local customs regulations (e.g. pay a customs duty), in the second case you will have to respect the time limits imposed by the temporary export procedure and provide for re-importation.
This does not apply if you are travelling within the European Union but in many other countries you are
in any case, carefully assess the issue of shipment / customs clearance and prepare in advance: if for any reason there is a hiccup in customs you risk not having the goods with you on the day of the meeting.
Preparing yourself in advance therefore means foreseeing the bureaucratic formalities but also identifying a trustworthy forwarding agent and defining the place of delivery: can the other party receive and store them before your arrival? Does the meeting place (e.g. trade fair or hotel) offer a collection and storage service?
keep track of the shipment and verify the correct receipt of the goods (it makes no sense to find out when you are there that there is a problem, better if you identify it and solve it before you leave!
Try to arrive at least 1 day in advance to unpack the goods and prepare for the event (e.g. setting up a stand) or expect someone to do it for you.
Prepare your trip
Once upon a time the agencies took care of it, today, in most cases you or your collaborators will work to find the best solution at the lowest price. But try not to forget the pieces on the street:
Do you need to get an entry visa? Are your documents in order?
transfer from your residence/company to the airport
flight (remember to check in and bring a valid document with you!)
hotel (check that it offers the necessary services for you, e.g. wifi, reception and storage of goods, transfer to and from the airport, etc.)
transfer from the airport to the hotel
hotel transfers – meeting places (you can also call a taxi each time but check the local costs and the usefulness of renting a car with driver or, for example, the presence of Uber)
Manage the follow-up
Whatever the agreement you have reached and the progress of the negotiations, do not wait for the other party to show up. You can start by following these 2 steps:
- email summary. The day after the meeting (if possible) or after returning from the trip, send an email of thanks and summarizes what you have agreed, ask him to confirm what you described, engage in an action with a certain date
- calls the other party. Do not wait for him to do so, within the agreed time frame, call the other party (or send the promised material).