New leads and enquiries from overseas can be an exciting prospect. The opportunity to see your products in different markets and build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with partners abroad is an export manager’s dream. However, even if you’re not a seasoned exporter it can sometimes be challenging to separate the genuine leads from the scams.
Whether you’re a small family business or large-scale corporation, protecting your brand and staying out of financial harm should be at the forefront of your mind when exporting. Take a read of what our export experts recommend when you receive an enquiry and aren’t sure what the next steps should be.
1. Screen the initial email
If the enquiry comes to you via email, ensure that the email has come from an email address belonging to the organisation in question. If the email address were to come from a Gmail account or Outlook, it is important to be vigilant as this could be an indication that the email is not being sent from a genuine company. For example, you have received an enquiry from a distributor named ‘Distribute Direct’ and they wish to stock your product. The email has been sent by a person named Sam, with the email address reading ‘email@example.com’. This email initially appears far more genuine than if Sam’s email address were to read ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. It is important to highlight that scams have become increasingly sophisticated in recent times and although we are suggesting business email addresses seem more legitimate, it is still important to do your due diligence.
2. Browse their website
You’ve received an email from a distributor, their emails seem genuine and you’re ready to progress the conversation. It is important to do some desk research into the potential new distributor before committing to anything. Search for their website. If they have one, do you recognise any of their associated partners or brands? Who are their customers? The likelihood is if you cannot find a website, or you can but it doesn’t seem quite right, chances are it could be an unreliable lead.
3. Reach out to their current partners
Recognise a brand on their site? Get in touch with them. Whether it be a direct email, a phone call to the relevant department or a private message on LinkedIn. Network with the brands they work with to get an idea of who they are and what they are like to be in partnership with. If they are a reputable and reliable organisation, their associated brands won’t have a problem singing their praises.
Speaking of LinkedIn, the next step to validate a lead would be to search for the person who initially contacted you on LinkedIn. Most individuals within the industry will have an up-to-date LinkedIn, specifying their work history and current employment. Look to see if the person you’re conversing with has a page and states that they work at the company. If they do not have a profile, this could be seen as unusual and could be a red flag.
5. Judge the authenticity based on the request
Unless you are a global brand, it is very unlikely that a distributor or buyer is going to approach you asking to place a large order knowing very little about your company. Although requests for big orders can be exciting and this kind of opportunity could be life-changing for a small business, it is important to remain realistic. A genuine lead would be interested in getting to know your company, how you operate, receive samples and ultimately a pricing list before considering placing an order, big or small. The old adage is still a relevant guiding principle: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
If you find yourself questioning the authenticity of a lead and would like a second opinion, or would like to talk to exporting experts with real industry experience, contact us.
Food and Drink Wales Export Cluster
If you are a Food and Drink producer based in Wales, the Export Cluster Helpline is on hand to help you. The Helpline is a service offered to Export Cluster members which gives access to export support from two of our industry experts. The Cluster has witnessed an increased volume of scam emails in recent months; therefore, we advise everyone to proceed with caution. Get in touch today
Not a member of The Export Cluster and want to get involved? The Cluster provides fully funded support for Welsh food and drink producers, whether you’re getting started or need some assistance taking your export strategy to the next level. Contact us to apply to become a member today.