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Winning bids and expansion:Pitching and tendering in a new export market

What you’ll learn

  • what pitching is, and what tendering is
  • how to pitch or tender
  • key considerations when pitching or tendering abroad

How to pitch abroad

Pitching for business abroad is, in theory, the same as you might do in the UK. It's how you win new business when speaking face to face with potential new customers.

A key part of any pitch is the art of story telling. You need to be able to easily explain the benefits of your products or services - not only what makes them different, but how they directly relate to the challenges your potential customers face. To do this you need to:

  1. Research your customers’ needs

    You need to have a clear idea of your customers’ buying behaviour — and what motivates them.

    One way of doing this is by speaking with potential buyers.

  2. Define your product or services unique selling points (USPs)

    Focus on the benefits of your product or service – and compare these with your competitors.

    For example, if you’re selling a London gin it might be the only one to use certain botanicals, or it might have a unique history.

  3. Understand the local market

    How you pitch may vary in different markets.

    For example, you may need to build up personal relationships with the buyer before you’re able to pitch.

    Or you may need to vary the length of your pitch to suit different cultural norms.

    And if you don’t speak the local language you may need an intermediary to pitch on your behalf.

  4. Practice your pitch so it’s easily to explain and understand

    Practice your pitch on people who are not familiar with your product or service – especially with those local to the new market.

    This helps check the story is easily understood, and the benefits are clear.

How to tender abroad

A tender is how you respond to a buyer’s requirements with a formal offer to carry out work or supply services. To create a tender you need to:

  1. Assess whether it’s worth tendering in your chosen sector

    Tendering can be both time consuming and costly. You should ask:

    • how much time will your tender application take?
    • do you have the people and resources to tender successfully – or will you need outside help?
    • what proportion of tenders are won by businesses who are based outside of the new market?
    • how many times do companies usually have to bid before a tender is won?
  2. Decide if you need to add your business to a pre-qualification list

    You may need to be added to a pre-qualification list with certain criteria – such as the size and turnover of your business – before you’re eligible to pitch.

  3. Choose local partners to help with the tender

    If you don’t speak the language you may need to use a local partner to communicate your offer. They also play a key role in putting your potential buyer at ease by:

    • giving you a presence in the market
    • understanding how business is done
    • helping you supply the product of service, if you win the tender

    You’ll also need to assess the cost of using a local partner. For instance, they may need to be coached and trained on your business.

  4. Peer to peer support and networking

    You can improve your chances of success by speaking with other UK companies who work with your potential buyer.

    Similarly, trade associations in your sector, and organisations such as the British Council may be able to offer you advice.

Pitching is something you’ll need do whenever you’re selling to buyers, face to face. Tendering is only recommended once you have more experience, and it’s typically for larger contracts. But persistence and the willingness to gain the experience will increase your chances of success.

International trade adviser

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