There is no best method for an exporter to build an overseas sales force, but the process begins with recruiting and training the new salesperson.
It is generally not recommended that an American be relocated overseas. Aside from the enormous cost that it entails to move a person with a family, the main reason for finding a foreign national is to sustain the old adage, ''When in Rome, do as the Romans do."Below are some ideas on how to recruit prospects. By far, newspaper advertisements are the most popular, then, in descending order: employment agencies, management consultants, universities, professional associations and technical journals.
The more technical the job requirements, the easier it is for an employment agency to accurately screen out the wrong person.
ENGLISH TEST A MUST
Psychological profiles can be useful. Tests in the local language are available from recruiting sources. Testing for English comprehension on a colloquial basis is a must to be sure that the person can relate to the American way of doing business.
The person ought to be fluent in the several languages of the surrounding countries in the area of operations. Overseas, the spanning of languages over national borders is prevalent. To be sure, English is the "lingua franca" today as French was in the last century, yet the bottom line on communications is to speak to clients in their own tongue for most effective communication.
Tests can measure standard intelligence and sales aptitude. Temperament and personality surveys can then be compared with profiles of successful Americans in the same job for definition of potential success.
The exporter should bring the prospective salesperson to the United States to learn how to sell here. This is why English comprehension is so important. The new-hire must spend time selling in the field - not just a week in the home office, but several weeks on the road calling on customers.
Once the person is comfortable with the nuances of the product, he should spend enough time in the market to understand the obstacles and advantages of the territory. Cultural gaps will be overcome by the salesperson who is fully aware of what it takes to deal with customers.
The exporter should prospect the territory with the new-hire to gain firsthand knowledge of how the person handles himself with customers. This
avoids unreasonable expectations of performance.
HOW TO COMPENSATE
Most overseas salespersons are accustomed to being paid on a salary basis. In addition to the base, a commission override on volume is acceptable, but no salesperson will work on commission only.
Thus the most common means of compensation - modest wages and excellent commissions as applied in this country - will not work overseas. The combination of the two is a middle ground that provides a living wage while still using the stimulus of the commission to help the salesperson achieve a growing income.
Sales quotas also are a problem with locals, yet the exporter must insist on such a program or performance will suffer. The native salesperson often thinks he is the company ambassador, not the person who must close sales.
Vacation requirements and holidays are different abroad, and separation packages ("golden parachutes") can be mandated by local law. Tax problems may exist, but in spite of all the obstacles, the concentration and intensity of market penetration may well make it cost effective to hire locally.
The style of business overseas is so different that sending a U.S. salesperson abroad usually is not cost-effective. It is difficult for Americans to adapt to what overseas clients have come to expect of salespersons calling on them, with the result that the expatriate frequently is quite ineffective.
One potential pitfall is that the salesperson may be corrupted into handling another line while employed by the exporter. This is a very real problem due to the distance between the home office and the employee in the field.
The most practical way to eliminate that possibility is to travel regularly into the field, visiting customers quarterly. There is no substitute for personal inspection.