SEMA News—May 2013
By Alysha Webb
Making Headway Overseas
Part II: Getting Started Globally
SEMA members create products for vehicles that are sold globally, and a growing number are looking to overseas markets for new business opportunities. OMIX-ADA, headquartered in Suwanee, Georgia, has more than 15,000 Jeep parts and accessories in stock and has been selling them globally for years, but the company expanded its international business department a few years. Now, OMIX-ADA’s international business is growing faster.
For this second in a periodic series of articles about SEMA members that are making headway in growing their overseas business, Nathan Calabrese, OMIX-ADA’s director of international sales, provided insights into how the company identifies markets to target, what company executives look for in a distributor and some tips on how to get started selling internationally.
“We are going to continue to develop our international network and find ways to work with our overseas customers to help grow their businesses,” said Calabrese.
The privately owned company ramped up its international sales efforts in 2010 by bringing Calabrese on board. A veteran of the powersports industry, he had been selling internationally for years. He put new processes in place at OMIX-ADA and “built an effective department,” he said, noting that the company’s international sales have had respectable double-digit growth in the last two and a half years.
OMIX-ADA sells its products—which include Jeep accessories and replacement parts as well as truck accessories—in more than 50 countries. The products are sold under the brand names OMIX-ADA, Rugged Ridge, Precision Gear, Alloy USA and Outland Automotive. As might be expected, OMIX-ADA’s international sales are best where the Jeep brand has a strong presence. Europe is currently its biggest international market, Calabrese said, and OMIX-ADA also looks for markets where the Jeep brand is expanding.
“If the vehicle exists in a country, then there is business for us,” he said. “As Jeep sales grow in a country, so grow our sales.”
OMIX-ADA’s products are sold to only other businesses, said Calabrese, and whether the client is a distributor or dealer varies from country to country. OMIX-ADA wants clients with heavy involvement in the Jeep industry, especially in the off-road market, and the company also seeks clients that are positive about the business, eager to grow and that want to represent a brand-name product.
The annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas is an important resource for OMIX-ADA because of the growing number of international attendees, Calabrese said. He also took part in SEMA’s China Business Development Program in 2012 and attended the Middle East Business Development Program. SEMA’s measuring sessions in the United States featuring models from overseas markets are also very useful, he said.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Calabrese recommended hiring someone who already has experience with the protocol and processes of international sales. The specific product that person sold before is not as important as experience with international trade, he said.
“There are a lot of regulatory things you have to be aware of,” he said. “These aren’t things you can just Google search and implement tomorrow.”
Don’t assume domestic sales programs, such as rebates, warranties and incentives, will work in an overseas market, Calabrese cautioned, and companies should work with their distributors to figure out what is best and realize that they face unique challenges.
“You have to be able to identify those areas where the program just won’t work,” he said. “You have really got to listen to and work with clients on a very close level to help them succeed. You really need to make a strong connection.”
Calabrese said that finding a freight forwarder you trust is crucial. A freight forwarder is the link between your company and the logistics company that actually moves your goods overseas. The freight forwarder will handle important documents for you, and you grant the freight forwarder power of attorney.
“I can’t emphasize the word ‘trust’ enough,” Calabrese said. “This is not somebody who is cleaning your house. This is someone who is moving a very highly valued shipment across the world.”
Calabrese suggests that companies just getting started overseas ask other companies for recommendations regarding freight forwarders. Investigate potential candidates and then stick with your choice—even if another company comes along offering cheaper rates.
“By the time you have established a relationship with someone you can trust, it is not worth saving $.05 a pound or $.50 a pound,” he said, though he recommended checking other offers occasionally since your forwarder might be willing to come down in price when faced with a competitor’s bid.
If this sounds overwhelming, there is help out there. In addition to SEMA’s international resources, Calabrese said that the U.S. Commercial Service and the Department of International Trade—both divisions of the Department of Commerce—are excellent resources.
SEMA sponsors business development conferences in the Middle East and in China each year to assist members in better understanding these key emerging markets and to meet face to face with potential buyers.
For more information on these and other SEMA international resources, such as hands-on access to vehicles popular around the world but not sold in the United States, make and model data for key countries, and top strategies for meeting with international buyers at the SEMA Show, contact SEMA Director of International Relations Linda Spencer at email@example.com.