domenica 30 ottobre 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Sell

Next post Thursday November 3rd

We are quite a formal people. It might be due to our history, to the fact that we have been ruled by many people, each one imposing its rules and dominion over us. It could be .
What is important is that we love appellation: we love to be called dottore, ingegnere, cavaliere, commendatore, and so on. We do love honors, although many of them are absolutely void, without any meaning.
This love for useless titles produces a formal approach. If you meet for the first time someone, especially if you are dealing with the decision maker, very often the owner or someone of the proprietor family, you should use a very formal and respectful language.
If you can use the Italian language, you should address her/him using “lei” instead of “tu”, of course this is impossible if you use English.
Avoid calling the guy with her/his name, use the surname (family name) instead always adding Mr. or Mrs. 
And please note that although we actually live in a different world, some old habits are still alive. Never call a lady miss when she could be over 30, once it meant that she was supposed to be spinster. Ok, nowadays this means nothing, but the habit remained, don’t ask me why…
Formality means also that you have to be sharp and respect time schedule, while your guest could be late (it’s a way used in the ages to show power: the old landlords used to do this) and that you have to keep your promises.
Too hard and complicated’
Just consider the last figures presented by Intesa San Paolo Monitor: Italian export increased by a two digit growth for the fifth quarter in a row (12,9% II qrt 2011) in all the major segment of the typical SME that constitutes the backbones of our country.
Would you be part of that?

lunedì 24 ottobre 2011

Payment terms: adapt your price (and mind set)

Next post Monday October 31st

Payment terms can be a problem for someone willing to start a business in Italy. It’s a factor you should consider because it’s a major hurdle for every Italian company.
It’s hard to say where it all begun, but the situation can find at present the first ring of the chain in the Italian government.
As you may now the Italian institutions represent one of the biggest market: the health system is mainly owned by the state and both government agencies (Army, Police, Carabinieri just to name some) the local government (Regioni, Provincie, Comuni) are big clients for a lot of products and services.
Since many of them have a complicated financial situation, to put it mildly, many of them tend pay their suppliers with… some delay. Some Regions, especially in the South, have payment terms which are closer or even worst to one year.
Yes, that is not a typing mistake: I’m talking of more than 365 days from the invoice.
You can imagine the kind of problems generated by this delay, and if you go upstream from these clients to the supplier’s suppliers and so on, well, everyone try to pay when and only when they have received the money from the downstream ring of the supply chain.
In the end that means that the average payment delay time is around 100 days. Some large Italian companies set the trend: Fiat is paying its supplier usually around 180 days, just to provide an example.
So do not expect to agree a delayed payment lower than 30 days.
And then when the due time is elapsed… start calling.
It’s a very bad Italian habit to delay further the payment until when you have called several time to remember the client that actually she/he has to pay you.
It’s not a dishonest behavior, although I confirm it’s really unfair. I mean, you do not have to fear (too much) for your due money, just work hard to get it.
I’m exaggerating, just a lit bit though, to provide you the right taste: do not expect easy money. You can make a lot of good business, but in any case worst paid than in your country.
So if you are considering to sell in Italy, sit down and estimate the cost so that you can adapt your price accordingly.

lunedì 17 ottobre 2011

Pricing in Italy: what discount means to Italians

Next post Monday October 24th

Pricing in Italy can be very tough! We are a Mediterranian people after all and we do love to bargain. You have to consider this is you want to make business with Italy.
Price is not a rational value of the product, is an emotional way to connect with people. Be prepared to negotiate, every time, everywhere.  Unless your brand is Apple.
We love discount, although we do understand very often it’s not a true reduction, but just a sort of sales game.
We invented the Commedia dell’Arte some centuries ago and we love to play parts: the client must fight for a price cut and she/he needs to win one, it’s a question of honor!
We do not feel offended if you raise you price so that you can cut it and provide a discount. It’s a game, you just have to know how to play it.
Do give it away immediately, start claiming that you will be spoilt by the discount and so we can argue for some minutes about. Then concede it and ask for something in reward.
It works.
Maybe I have depicted it in a romantic way, but believe me you have to consider our latin attitude toward prices if you want to be profitable.
Two little samples:
1)   the company I used to work as a marketing manager provided a discount on listed prices of about 70% to OEMs: can you believe it?
2)   Have you ever seen on the back of your hotel room door the listed price for your room? Did you agree a night rate of 130 € breakfast included? Now, why you can read that the list price without breakfast for one night is 380€?
That’s Italy.
Do you need to know more about?

domenica 9 ottobre 2011

Welcome to Milan: the hub to new business

Next post Tuesday October 18th
Sorry for the delay

Milan is considered the business capital of our country. Why Rome is the political center and one of the best town in the world, Milan hosts the Stock Exchange Market and many headquarters of the most important Italian companies. 
The Milan fashion week is well known everywhere and the quadrilatero della moda, the block that revolve around Via Montenapoleone, is considered to be one of the smartest and most beautifull “shopping mall” for fashion and high quality stuff.
Milan is even much more than that, as this article points out.
Biotech, mechanical, food are fundamental sector based in Milan while the textile and silk region is truly close to the big Italian city.
Furthermore the plan for the 2015 EXPO, that will take place in Milan, is really a global opportunity that should be taken.
People from Milan, milanesi as we call ourselves, are among the most open in Italy. Open to foreigners, to new business, to innovations, to good ideas. Yes, we may sometime be perceived –since we really are-  a little… arrogant, self-centered, but believe me if you can be patient and sail through the weak storm, you’ll find bright people, hard-workers, really interested in making good deals with everyone.
Just come and visit us!

giovedì 6 ottobre 2011

The FIAT move: in search of flexibility

Next post Monday October 10th

Fiat is leading the way. The move decided by its CEO Sergio Marchionne to leave Confindustria, the association of the Italian industrial companies, motivated by a public letter published by several newspaper, talks about flexibility and the desire to grow in a country free of ancient bonds and unable to understand what’s going on around the world.
Other companies are following, creating a dramatic breaking not only with the other industrial groups, but with the government and the trade unions.
The main point is to help companies being more competitive: and first to understand what flexibility really means.
That’s  an opportunity: do you have to propose solutions that can increase flexibility? Or that can help to apply an innovative approach to the market place? Can you demonstrate an immediate impact on the bottom line?
Why do you wait to lend in Italy then? We are ready to welcome you.

domenica 2 ottobre 2011

Much more than that

Next post Thursday October 6th

We are truly different. We are not what it can be perceived. Let’s claim it loudly. We can be through a terrible and dingy political crisis, our government can be losing its dignity, but we are not just that!
Italy is much more than its political class, we are used to survive to political crisis and we know how to go on and increase even when around us everything seems falling down and giving up.
The economical index of the country are positive. You have to understand and read them.
Unfortunately the BelPaese is an house divided. I’m not talking of inner racism or aspiration to secession, which seems more funny than dangerous.
I’m talking of an historical difference in industry growth.
The Norther part of the country is recovering fast from the crisis and starting to grow rapidly.
So that’s the perfect timing to consider hoe to be part of this growth as a supplier or as an actor in the Italian scenario.
The chemical sector is crowing, the food industry is growing, the shoes business too (+20% compared to first nine mounth of 2010).
Furthermore there is a rising interest for everything that can cut costs while increasing efficiency: could you position in this way your solutions? Then come and do it.
We will go through the freshly published report with statistical data for Italy so that we can find out interesting data to be revealed and used.
We need thus your help. Please ask to these simple questions:
What would you like to know about Italy? What should we focus on?
What we have to:
Keep, go on doing and telling?
Stop, forget about: not interesting?
Start, never did it again but you are interested in?
Thanks for your help.