As part of our strategy to pre-launch our new Type 3 panel fixing to overseas markets, we recently visited Buttonfix’s main distributor in the USA; Hafele America. With Hafele we are fortunate to have a distributor with a broad reach and many salespeople across the 50 states. However, this raises the issue of how to reach out to them, particularly when we are trying to tell them about a new product. Fortunately, we were invited to an event in Greensboro, NC, to celebrate the company's 50 years in the US. This was a rare opportunity too good to miss as we were able to meet all of Hafele’s salespeople in the same place at the same time. Even better, they had invited some of their most important customers and potential end-users of our new and current products. Armed with a pop-up banner, tabletop demonstrators and many sample packs, our head of sales and marketing, Julie Freedman and I set out to present to the guests.
In my home workshop, I made a simple plywood demonstrator for Type 3 to support the multi-surface demonstrator. This became a conversation leveller, as most American wood mill professionals prefer a more rustic approach. Understanding what works in different cultures is essential. The rough Type 3 demonstrator also made an impressive bang when the two plywood halves joined together, generating a lot of curiosity in the hall. As a sales method, we always ‘soft-sell’ relying on technical knowledge and enthusiasm for our products rather than a hard sell. Even if the hyper-positive American response to new things is reduced to bring it in line with our more British/realistic expectations, it was still a brilliant reception. Hafele America will probably be the first distributor to have Type 3 fully implemented on their website.
Meeting our distributors forges genuine working relationships and is essential. We are not yet a big enough company to have ‘boots on the ground’ in America, so, whilst a long haul, short visit every year is expensive and physically exhausting, it will have to suffice. We now need to start researching Type 4 specifically for the US market. A big takeaway is understanding the culture one is selling in and learning to speak it – as necessary in America as elsewhere.
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