By John J. Capela

When you’re selecting a product for your import/export business, you need to be personally and emotionally committed to its success. Begin the selection process by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you like the product that you’re planning to offer for sale? If you don’t like it, you’ll have a hard time selling it.

  • Can you see yourself getting excited about it? Sometimes you choose a product based on data. If you can’t see yourself getting jazzed about the product, move on to another one.

  • Would you buy and use it yourself? If you wouldn’t buy and use the product, what makes you think other people will buy and use it?

  • Would you sell this product to an immediate family member or friend? If you don’t think the product is good enough for your family and friends, it’s not good enough for your customers, either.

  • Who would you sell this product to? Who would be your target market? If you can’t identify your target market for this product, go back to the drawing board.

  • Is there a real need for the product in today’s market? If the market doesn’t need the product, you don’t want to be selling it.

  • What are the product’s advantages and disadvantages as compared to similar products in the market? No product is perfect. Even if you’re excited about the product, you need to be honest with yourself about its pros and cons so you can properly position it in the marketplace.

After you’ve answered these preliminary questions, you’re ready to look at the three E‘s of product selection: experience, education, and enthusiasm. The three E‘s can help you narrow that infinite set of product options to a manageable list and eventually to a successful business venture.

Experience

One key to being successful with a product is having experience with that product. The more you know about the product, the greater the chances that you’ll be successful.

When choosing a product, start by reviewing your background. Look for areas in which you have some specific experience. This experience can come from your employment background, a family contact in another country, or simply a hobby.

The key when trying to introduce a product into a market is knowledge, and experience is the link that provides you with the knowledge that you need to be successful.

Education

There will always be new things to learn, and the sooner you understand that, the more successful you’ll be. Product knowledge is important, and education is the key to gaining that knowledge.

Use education to expand and develop your base of experience. Reading this book is a good place to start, but don’t stop here. Take business classes, visit the country you’re interested in exporting to or importing from, and meet with your prospective customers. You can never have too much education or too much information about your product and your business.

Enthusiasm

You must enjoy selling your product. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your product, you’ll have a hard time convincing someone else that she should buy it. You can have the experience and use education to fill in the blanks, but if you aren’t enthusiastic about the product, selling that product simply won’t work.

A colleague was awarded a one-year academic fellowship in the Czech Republic. While he and his family were abroad, his wife became interested in crystal giftware items that were designed and produced there. She used her time overseas to meet with manufacturers, select a category that she was particularly fond of, and negotiate some prices and selling agreements.

After the family returned to the U.S., she continued to express her interest in starting her own business importing this line of crystal glassware. Her next step was to learn about the process of importing and figure out what she needed to do to set up such a business. She attended a seminar and learned the specifics of dealing with suppliers, customers, and U.S. Customs regulations.

Working on her own, she started to realize that she enjoyed meeting and introducing clients to the products that she really loved. She enjoyed sharing the stories of her visits to the factories and the devotion that many of these craftsmen had toward the quality of their products. She enjoyed the challenge.

She had the experience (product knowledge). She used education wisely. And she had enthusiasm, the final key in evaluating and selecting a product.