lunedì 26 settembre 2011

Web digging for Italy

Next post Thursday September 29th Monday October 3rd

The Net is full of nice hints, good suggestions, lot of information. So let’s grab what we can find about selling in Italy.
You can dig into this nice webpage Business E Via Italy whose goal is to promote investments in the BelPaese and suggesting the best way to do it.
In the session Etiquette you can find several interesting articles, this one for instance wraps up the main guidelines to be followed when you discuss business with Italian people.
To be honest, and slightly proud, you’ll find nothing more than we already disclosed in these pages….
Now what we have discussed thus far, also with support of some links of reliable website, is how to start doing business with Italian people and why you should.
What we will introduce with next post is what you could be interested to sell in Italy and if you should start doing it now.  
We will dig into the yearly document that present the picture of our country to find out clues of opportunities and threads.  
Stay tuned!

sabato 24 settembre 2011

The consequences of a sprayed industry

Next  post Monday September 26th

Which are, from a business point of view, the consequences of the Italian individualism that we presented in the precedent post?

In my experience the main ones could be so summarized:

1)   A huge number of small companies: if you want sell in Italy be prepared to face this sprayed country. You will have to deal with a lot of small clients, forget about the chance to sell to few big customers that can provide you high volumes.

2)   The decision maker is very very often just the owner of the company. He/she can be enlightened and rely on professional managers, but that it’s not a frequent situation. Usually the company revolve around the owner who tends to install his/her relatives in key places, or where they cannot hurt too much the company (family links requires to find room for everyone till the fifth level of parenthood). So if you you want to make business easily and quickly you have to find out your way to the very top.

3)   The cultural level is quite low: let me be more precise. We usually have very smart people, with profound intuitions and a brilliant touch for business. They are intuitive, they are in the Influence in the DISC approach. Being so talented and having had success, they tend to rely just on themselves: no need to study the evolution of the market, to learn more about marketing and web-related strategies, a furious skepticism against any kind of consultants (who are you to tell me what I need to do?), and no need for sharing ideas with other people. This approach, which of course it’s not at all general, even though quite recurrent, is then spread through the company.

Now, what we can do to face these feature?

Your suggestions are welcomed.

giovedì 22 settembre 2011

7 hints to deal with Italian prospects

Next  post Monday September 26rd

Searching the web to find out some clues about the best way to sell to Italian companies you can find this document originally designed for Irish companies that depict the best way to approach a new Italian prospect.
Some of these hints look to me too stereotypes to be actually true, but I have to say there are a lot of good suggestions that you should consider.
Let me just wrap up seven of  them:
1)   Italian people are very formal and used to evaluate potential customer by the way they are dress and they talk. You might remember the beginning of the movie Gung Ho when a typically American Michael Keaton tries to win the interest of the Japanese board of a car company. Well, that’s what can happen.
2)   Italian people love titles: to avoid any mistakes we tend to call everyone ingegnere which is even more than dottore. Don’t use Christian names until you are permitted to.
3)   Consider that many people do not speak or understand English, even if they pretend to, and that usually those who claim to talk English fluently actually can speak itanglish, that means “english the Italian way”. Not just in the use of false friends like eventually used instead of “in the case” or actually for “at present”, but much often in the way the sentence is built.
4)   We love to bargain, is our Mediterranean soul. We tend to be sometime even Levantine in our attitude to negotiate, consider that we were used to get discount as high as 70%!
5)   Italy is a stretched country and actually it’s built of a huge number of different cultures. People living and working in Milan can act very differently from their “cousins” in Rome or in Palermo.
6)   Do not make joke about Italy or our Prime Minister. We are allowed to, you aren’t!
7)   Work to build long term relationship, after all we are Latin people and we do trust only those who want to spend time in knowing us.
Next time we will explore further hints.
By the way do you have experience you want to share with us?

martedì 20 settembre 2011

Approaching the decision maker

Next  post Friday September 23rd

Second point of discussion:  the decision maker is very very often just the owner of the company.
That means that you need to know how to reach her/him. And this is not a easy job unless you know and handle quite well the local culture.

You can find some hints about the Italian culture, for foreigners, in this interesting website.

But you should not need to study the whole Italian style, just find out someone to rely on.
There are some part if Italy where you should be introduced to the owner by someone whom (s)he knows and trusts, so that you can earn your credibility through this third party.

And you need to understand the human attitude of the owner before talking business.
Italians are quite formal and do not like straight talks. We have invented the art of diplomacy a long time ago during the Middle Age and please do remember that Machiavelli, whom is known to be the father of the subtle talent of manipulation, was an Italian guy.

The only straight way you should consider is the one bringing you in front of the owner, do not waste time with nice and intelligent people, who can be very smart and professional, but who cannot really take decision until the owner has approved them.

So sit down a figure out your best strategy to reach the people you really want to target.

sabato 17 settembre 2011

4 steps to focus your efforts

Next  post Tuesday September 20th

We have listed in the previous post the consequences of the sprayed industries and we want to discuss how we can face them.
Let’s start with the huge number of small companies: if you consider to sell in Italy at the very beginning do not try to reach all the country and just focus on the most suitable place, the one which will provide you more grip for the solutions you are offering.
It is quite easy to understand which will be the best geographical market, thanks to the fact that Italy presents very specific local features and industries are usually gathered for market segment, what we call “comparti industriali”   so that you can find a huge number of companies producing valves and taps around Borgomanero, the silk industry close to Como, the gold one near Vicenza, wool close to Novare and so on.
And cities too have very specific features so that if you want to approach the B2C market you can easily find out which will be the best town to start with.
Very often you need to work with some local people, and this is not due to the fact that you are a stranger company. It has to deal with the usual mistrust that Italian people pay to someone who is not a close neighbor.  And by the way this is not just an Italian vice, isn’t it?

My suggestion then is  to follow these steps

  1.  Identify the added value of your product/solution: why should it be interesting for the Italian market?
  2. Whom is supposed to by it? Which kind of industry will find it useful and more interesting that what they are purchasing now? Or which kind of clients will be dying for buying it? 
  3. Where are they located?
  4.  How can I reach them easily?

Do you have any samples of questions that can be useful to describe this procedure with a concrete case?

sabato 10 settembre 2011

What a strange country it's Italy

Next  post Wednesday September 14th

Before this post, being today the 10th anniversary of 9/11 let's honor those who died and pray for them and their families

What a strange country is Italy. You should be aware of the fact that when an Italian says we are different, (s)he is not lying or overstating. Well may be a little exceeding…
The Italian economy is really based on family business. It was only based on family business since twenty years ago, now it’s mostly built up by small family companies which do really represents the backbone of the Italian business structure.
Just to give you some figures, back to 2010:
94,7% of the all Italian registered companies were composed by less than 10 people (they have 1 to 9 workers/employees)
It means that only less than 100,000 companies out of  about 1,600,000 can rely on a team of at least 10 people.
If you dig further, you can discover that in that range, 1 to 9 employees company, about 66,6%, so 1 million companies, are just one man bands!
Now let’s ask to unavoidable questions:
1)   Why this?
2)   Which are the consequences?

Actually it could be useful to understand the reason of this situation, because that can help us to fine tune the approach to the Italian market.
Italians are individualist: each of us usually believes to have better ideas and better solutions (usually the best) and to be much smarter than anyone else. So as soon as he can, he spins off and founds his own company. I used the male pronoun because that was usually what happened till five to ten years ago, before the e-age.
A talented technician, a production manager, discovered that his ideas where good but that nobody in the company seems to care about. So he got out and found his own business taking care of production and bringing with him some clients from the old company, customers who trusted him more than the brand. Then he appointed her wife as financial director, caring accountancy, and his sons as sales directors. And a new company was born.
Nowadays the e-conomy offers much more opportunity to young people, and the Italian individualism can find even a larger ground to colonize.
Which could be the consequences of this approach? If you can figure it out please share your ideas with us, on the contrary just wait for next post!

mercoledì 7 settembre 2011

That's not Italy any more

Next  post Sunday September 11th

Let’s joke before going deeper into the discovery of the Italian planet and the best ways to sell in Italy and to Italy.
This short shot, taken from a famous Italian movie with the well known actor Totò, is a sharp icon of what still foreigners believes we are. Most of them at least.
The piece is in Italian, this movie I believe was never dubbed or I could’n find the English version, but nonetheless it’s significant and funny. Totò is selling the Fontana di Trevi to an American tourist. 
Well, what can we learn from this shot?
Let me reassure you: that’s not the present situation, no more.
But the attitude shown by Totò can still be a feature of the Italian people: I’m not talking of cheating or manipulating, but of acting like a star, wanting to impress: hamming, overacting.
And we do love to negotiate, better to bargain on everything.
So better be aware of this.
And in next post we  will look closer to some figures about our country that can help you to figure out what  to do and how to sell to Italy.

lunedì 5 settembre 2011

Why the Italian Market?

Next  post Wednesday September 7th

Why be interested to the Italian market? You can record a what seems to be an endless list of good rational reasons why you should stay away from this market: delays in payment, strange habits, risky investments, bunches of incomprehensible laws, high taxations.
You’re right: these motivations are valuable and you should consider them.
On the other hand Italy is a fascinating market who loves exotic suppliers and gets mad for anything coming from abroad, especially from some countries that to the Italian eyes mean good value.
Just to name some big success: McDonald’s, H&M, Zara, Brooks Brothers, Nespresso….
You’re not so big? That’s why we are here: to discuss how you can sell to Italy in a low cost and low risks way.
And to start with some commonplaces, which actually hide much more truth that they look like, here what foreigner countries tend to conjure up in our minds, which are the mental association we are used to:
US: innovation, technologies, new trends, everything that is a must
Germany: precision, mechanic, trustworthiness
Swiss: punctuality, accuracy, no risk
China: low cost
Japan: better quality-price ratio, innovation,
You may not agree with this vision, and I’ll be glad to Italian readers of this post to amend my suggestions, if they believe that they should. It could be a little coarse, but I believe it states a point: you may have a strong advantage you can ride.
So why don’t you start benefiting from it?

giovedì 1 settembre 2011

Il Bel Paese: easy landing to sell in Italy

Next  post Tuesday September 6th

Selling in Italy: is that a plan that you would consider as a potential expansion?
Why not? Italy is a market that loves exotic products, they love everything coming from the US, and are eager to come within reach of the innovation that comes from Far East, or the BRICS countries.
You just need to understand something about our country, about our habits and tastes, and what you should avoid in approaching  this market.
The aim of this blog is to lead you so that you can land here and sell with profitability and success, without risks and with a low cost line of attack.
Here the subjects that we will discuss in these pages, and that we can widen with your help, your questions, your experience, your doubts.
1.     What is Italy in 2011
2.     The best markets
3.     What Italians look for
4.     How to sell to Italy
5.     How to sell abroad (if you never did it before)
6.     Italian taxation system
7.     About pricing, invoicing and cashing
8.     Where to sell
9.     Mistakes to avoid

Don’t want to wait? Just write me and I’ll be happy to help you any way I can