3 Ways to Sell Abroad Without Leaving Your Desk

Streamline Automation founder Dwayne Lehman has built an overseas empire from a single Calgary office

Written by Dwayne Lehman

With 95% of my company’s sales coming from out-of-country clients, you might assume that I spend the majority of my time in airports and rental cars. However, I have come to realize that the resources required for extensive travel and face-to-face marketing are often better put to use in channels that can operate independently of my (or my team’s) physical presence.

In large part, this is due to the costs of being based in Calgary, which is far from everywhere and expensive to operate within. With a small staff and limited travel budget, it became imperative to reevaluate our traditional international sales tactics.

Here are some strategies I’ve found that support global marketing from a local platform:

Approach Clients as On-the-Ground Marketing Resources

It’s all about perspective. We never see a final sale as the completion of a client interaction. Rather, a satisfied customer transitions to a marketing resource within their locality. To this end, building a long-term relationship with a client is a key part of our sales process.

Once a client is using our equipment, their shop becomes an extension of our showroom. Their industry connections become our industry connections. They become our on-the-ground marketing team wherever they might be situated.

Obviously, we don’t expect customers to act as salesmen out of the goodness of their hearts. By offering a sales commission or reimbursements for their assistance, most customers are extremely amenable to acting as corporate ambassadors.

Dollar for dollar, this has proven to be a far more effective strategy than sending staff (or myself) to drum up business in a distant location where we have few local connections. It also has the benefit of being self-perpetuating. Once initiated, the action is largely on the part of the client, requiring few resources on our end.

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Perfect a Virtual Showroom

Beyond the nice website and glossy brochure, consider developing a virtual showroom that promotes your product better than you could in person. Online-marketing strategies are nothing revolutionary, but they are effective.

Compared to taking on more staff or hitting up tradeshows, I have found that building a comprehensive portfolio of online resources has provided more effective and long€“term sales results. For the cost of a single sales trip, we’ve produced product videos that generate hundreds of leads. For the price of a trade show stall, we’ve launched (and maintained) multiple industry-specific micro-sites that allow us to dynamically market our products to thousands of targeted customers.

By developing a comprehensive range of videos, interactive presentations, websites, F.A.Q. documents and image portfolios, I can instantly provide a customer with an immersive product experience geared toward their industry applications—right from my desk.

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Redefine the Direction of Sales Travel

Rather than traveling to a prospective client, have them come to you. If at all possible, have interested buyers visit you for a product demo. While this started out of necessity (heavy machinery like our FROG3D® system doesn’t fit in a suitcase), over the years I have observed that reversing the onus of travel from myself to the client has correspondingly increased sales.

We even offer a discount on equipment purchased after a product demo. Again, dollar for dollar, the financial encouragement for clients to travel to us provides a much higher return than if the same money was spent traveling to our clients. Clients that visit us are also more serious potential buyers, and smart scheduling means that I can accommodate numerous client visits with a smaller staff.

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Essentially, working locally has allowed me to keep my sales resources more focused and more efficient, even while the company’s international sales quickly outpaced those closer to home. Putting a dynamic and self-perpetuating marketing plan into place that brings clients to us rather than us to clients might seem like a matter of semantics. However, it has proven to be a highly successful and cost-effective approach for managing a global client base from a single Calgary office.

Dwayne Lehman is founder and president of Streamline Automation, Ltd. and a member of the Calgary chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.


What strategies and tactics do you use to attract overseas business? Let us know using the comments section below.

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