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Winning bids and expansion:Using samples, demos and prototypes when exporting

View transcript for Episode 24 - Using samples, prototypes and demos recording
Samples, demos and prototypes can be incredibly useful as part of a pitch for new business because it gives buyers a clear idea of what they might be purchasing. So, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each one.

A sample might be the complete product or a smaller version of it, and it’s a great way to showcase the products benefits. But it’s important to factor in the costs involved. If a distributor requests samples from you and you have an expensive product, you may consider asking them to contribute to the costs involved.

A demo is a great way of closing a sales deal, particularly if it shows the benefits of your product.

But be prepared to spend time planning for the demo. It may require more work than in the UK, because you’ll need to research the country-specific challenges your buyers may face. You should also be prepared to answer potentially difficult questions concerning local regulatory or technical standards.

A prototype is an unfinished design of your product.

What you’ll learn

  • when to use samples and demos
  • the benefits of using prototypes
  • the pros and cons of samples, demos and prototypes

When to use samples and demos

Your distribution partner or potential buyer may request a sample or demo of your product. This often happens at a later, or final stage of a pitch when you’ve proven your product matches their basic requirements. But in some cases, you may be asked to demo your product before you start negotiations. For example, you could demo at trade shows.


Samples can help distributors showcase your product by giving them something tangible to share with potential buyers.

The sample might be the complete product you sell to market, or a small selection of products from your range.

For example, if you sell hospital equipment, a sample could be a hospital bed. If you sell a range of gins, your samples may only need to be a mini tasting selection of your most popular bottles.

When deciding whether to use samples it’s important to factor in the cost involved. If you have an expensive product, or can’t scale it down, you may consider asking distributors to pay for samples.


Demos of your product can help you close sales deals.

In your demo you can highlight all the benefits of your product. They also help with objection handling as you can directly answer any questions potential buyers have.

Planning your presentation for demos

To get your demo right, you’ll need more time for research and preparation than you would in the UK.

Research the specific challenges your potential buyers may have, and be prepared to answer any difficult questions. Be sure to look and address any you may face in the market as a foreign supplier, such as regulatory and technical standard requirements.

You might also consider bringing someone from your product team with you. For example, if you sell advanced medical equipment, having your technical team with you enables them to answer any question about the technology. You’re then free to focus on the benefits.

If you need to use any equipment for your presentation, such as monitors or anything which needs a power supply, make sure you have the right adaptors. It’s also a good idea to bring spare parts in case anything breaks.


A prototype is an unfinished design of your product. It’s not common to demo a prototype as part of your pitch or tender but they can be very useful to understand what your users want.

For example, you may share an early design of your product with a user group to get an idea of what’s working and what needs to change.

Export permission for demos and samples

Most countries have a limit on the value of goods you can bring in duty free.

This means you may need permission to temporarily take your goods, and any equipment you use, out of the UK for the purposes of demos or samples.

You can usually get an ATA Carnet to cover your time away and avoid paying duty.


  • Samples showcase your product benefits
  • Demos can help you close deals
  • Prototypes help you match designs to user needs


  • Samples can be costly
  • It takes time to prepare good presentations for demos
  • Badly presented demos can damage your sales potential

Whenever you demo a product or service make sure you’re prepared. Approach it as you would a job interview. You only have one opportunity to sell, so it’s worth getting right. And whatever stage you’re at in your pitch or tender, you’re potential buyers are likely to be asking for either a demo or a sample product.

International trade adviser

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