The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

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Anna Poljicak

Benoît Robert

International Business Commissioners

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International business: Remote canvassing

How can I carry out international canvassing virtually? How is it different from traditional canvassing? How should I approach remote international market development? These are frequently asked questions, which we will answer in this article.

International canvassing: 5 steps for remote selling

Whether you are canvassing locally or internationally, traditionally or remotely, the methodology is the same and involves several steps.

1. Identify your targets

Which key organizations will you be approaching? Are they potential clients or partners, peers or ecosystem players? You will need to list the type of organizations and clearly identify the roles of the individuals you are targeting.

2. Identify key organizations

There are several ways to identify key organizations and develop a canvassing list. These include industry association/cluster membership lists, trade show exhibitor or speaker lists, databases and support organizations.

Tip: For more comprehensive results from your web searches, we suggest you use tools that allow you to localize your VPN* for the country you are targeting.

*Virtual private network (VPN): software that allows you to browse anonymously, secure your information and change your IP address in order to bypass many geographical blocks. For example, you can be in Canada and obtain a French IP for more precise and relevant data concerning the targeted country.

3. Identify relevant contacts

One of the most difficult aspects of canvassing is identifying contacts and contact information for targets.

-  Useful tools for finding websites for targeted organizations include LinkedIn and Sales Navigator.*

*Sales Navigator (a paid service after one month free) is integrated into the Sales package on LinkedIn. For example, you can search for qualified leads with the Lead Builder tool. It allows you to filter LinkedIn members according to various criteria, such as keywords, location, relationships, function, company and groups. You can save them to your list of potential clients.

-  There are also a number of solutions to help you find email addresses so you can approach the right person and personalize your communications. Email search tools can identify the email structure of the organization you are targeting (e.g. Hunter, Find That Email, Finder Expert). However, it’s important to note that these tools are free for a limited number of monthly searches. When you know the organization’s email structure and use it for a specific contact, you can check the email address with other tools (e.g. MailTester, CapitainVerify).

4. Build a canvassing file

Once you have gathered all the information, we strongly encourage you to sort it before reaching out to contacts. This can initially be done in an Excel file, but you should be aware that there are free or low-cost customer relationship management (CRM) tools that can be very useful in the medium or long term for keeping and sending information.

5. Reach out to your contacts

Before reaching out to your contacts, you will need to establish your value proposition for each target. Your value proposition is a key phrase that states how your solution addresses a problem in the market and the promise you are making to your customer. Your value proposition should generate interest and lead to a meeting, not a sale. It can and should evolve based on the feedback you receive.

Once you have defined your value proposition, you can then get in touch with your contacts in various ways. Cold calling is a good way to talk to your contact, but it’s very time consuming and difficult. You can also contact your targets via a personalized email, social selling or mass emails. We suggest that you try to reach your contact person first by email or text and then call them to follow up.

Once you’ve arranged a meeting with your contact, you’ll need to prepare for the meeting, whether it’s in person or remote. In particular, you should find out about the company and the person you are meeting with.

For more information on our international trade consulting service, visit our web page.

Helpful advice for your virtual meetings

With the widespread use of video conferencing tools, it’s clear that multitasking is often the order of the day and that people can easily be distracted during a meeting by an incoming email or a Teams message. This is especially true when meeting virtually, so your presentation (sales pitch) and the way you present yourself (staging) will play a decisive role in keeping your audience’s attention.

Virtual sales pitch

It’s crucial to have a good sales pitch*. Whether it’s a sales pitch, an elevator pitch, or an investor pitch, it’s important to have the right pitch prepared for the right target.

You’ll need to make sure your pitch is clear, concise, accurate, and that it generates interest and prompts action. We suggest that you back up your remarks with a few slides as a visual aid (with one piece of information per slide) and use visual elements (photos, illustrations or graphics) to make it attractive. It’s worth pointing out that people retain on average 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read and 80% of what they see.

Although your pitch is important, listening to the person you’re talking to is essential. This will give you greater insight into their organization, their needs and the market you’re targeting. We therefore recommend that you set aside time for discussion and listening.

Virtual staging

For the last several months, we’ve been sharing our personal living spaces with our professional contacts. However, a workspace should be designed to convey a positive and professional image. Here are a few tips:

  • Pay attention to the light:This is an often overlooked but important element. We encourage you to opt for natural light, use paper lamps to give off a softer light, and point the white page of your second screen (if you have one) toward your face to illuminate it.
  • Pay attention to your position: in front of your screen: We recommend that you divide your screen into three parts. Focus your eyes at the two-third mark, position yourself a foot or a foot and a half away from your camera and sit or stand in the middle.
  • Pay attention to your background: Try to keep it neutral, clear and calm (avoid distractions). You can also use one of the artificial backgrounds available on different virtual meeting platforms.
  • Pay attention to what you wear: Even when meeting virtually, appearance matters.

Tip: If you need to hold webinars or virtual meetings regularly, invest in the proper equipment (e.g. microphone, camera, headset). There is some very accessible equipment that will help you improve your meetings.

One last point: After your meetings, be sure to follow up so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Note: These elements were taken from workshops we designed and have held with Montréal incubators and accelerators to better equip the companies that participate in their programs. The workshops are tailored to the sectors and situations facing these companies. For more information about the workshops and topics available, contact us at international@ccmm.ca.
  • Céline Chataigner-Reboul International Business Commissioner
    Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
  • Anna Poljicak International Business Commissioner
    Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
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