The problem

In times of crisis in the national market, SMEs need to deal successfully and efficiently with the approach to international markets.
SMEs often do not have the financial resources and the specialized personnel to start and maintain commercial and business relations with foreign countries.

Trade associations

The solution

In our case, the solution chosen to overcome the lack of specialist and financial resources of SMEs was the establishment of a consortium of SMEs with the mission of providing outsourcing services traditionally performed by a foreign sales office.
Starting to develop business relationships with foreign markets with an outsourced service is certainly the optimal approach because it has less impact on the company organization, it brings the “time to market” closer and offers guarantees on the results and reduces the necessary investment.
What does the office do?

  1. Define a shared internationalization strategy
  2. Identify potential markets and Consortium companies that may be interested
  3. Promote the company and its products in international markets
  4. Contribute to developing a Commercial Policy and related promotional actions
  5. Provide the company with a foreign correspondent on site to support the search for distributors or sales agents and manage related contacts
  6. Contact potential clients through a specialized call-center, qualifying the contact and advancing the company’s commercial proposals (price lists, catalogs, presentations) to collect feedback and transmit the opportunities that are highlighted to the company.
  7. Identify contact lists on the market of interest
  8. Provide advice on all stages of the commercial transaction with foreign subjects (translation, commercial offers, financial, commercial and customs issues)
  9. Participate and manage exhibitions and events
  10. Provide advice in the definition and implementation of marketing and communication campaigns

For the member company of the Consortium it will be like having a large part of the services of an overseas commercial office without making the huge investments in terms of human resources and time.
Which resources and systems does the Foreign Sales Office need outsourced?
Beyond the essential commercial and relational skills, the service requires a real IT system, which can be consulted via the web, which includes both the project management component (each target market is managed as a project), and that of contact management and actions carried out on potential customers (CRM), as well as summary “dashboards” for all related data. The CRM connects, creating a shared virtual office, the Foreign Trade Office, the Foreign Correspondents and the companies involved. Company data are visible and accessible with profiles that ensure corporate confidentiality at the required levels.

Our contribution

The IT system is one of the pillars of the services offered. Without a valid IT system, capable of supporting the whole process, it would be difficult for the pool of specialists distributed over the territory to manage commercial activities for over a hundred companies, allowing easy monitoring and avoiding being overwhelmed by the amount of data. The IT system allows the company to be directly connected to the work pool and promptly informed of the progress of the activities in progress.
Joint Technologies, a company specializing in Opensource technologies and in CRM and WEB 2.0 applications, has given technical advice and IT services on which the Foreign Trade Office is based.
The identified technical solution consists of the following functional elements:

  • Customer management
  • Contact management and qualification process
  • Tracking Activities carried out at customers
  • Repository of documentation
  • Tracing Activities and relationships with partner companies
  • Ad hoc reporting for member companies
  • Reporting for the consortium
  • Dashboards for the consortium and for member companies.

The solution was implemented through additions and customizations of the following applications (1):

  • SugarCRM
  • CMS Joomla portal
  • Jasper Report

Using the same technological and application infrastructure, the consortium offers its member companies the opportunity to have a CRM environment dedicated to the commercial offices of the individual companies, to independently manage their commercial activities and to bring together the commercial data of the Foreign Office once the relationship is consolidated.

(1) All the basic components of the IT infrastructure are based on opensource software