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How I started and built my B2B importing empire

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Walter Hay

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With concerns growing among forum members regarding the lack of control when selling on Amazon, there has also been an increasing interest in B2B selling, to some extent due to the greater control possible.

To help as much as I can, I decided to start this thread, firstly outlining the way I started my second B2B business, based on importing, and a strong marketing policy. Then I will show how I scaled it. I will be happy to answer questions that might arise.

Some of the following information can be found by searching my posts, but that can be very time consuming, so here in detail is the story:

I began importing in 1987 and I was fortunate enough to have a good starting point.

I had been exporting to countries in the Asia/Pacific region for 9 years, selling B2B.

One of my biggest customers was a distributor in China. During my many visits to China I built a network of contacts, which was easy, because as I found, every business person there has a relative who operates a business, and I was continually being introduced to these keen entrepreneurs.

Many of them asked me to import their products, but I filed all their requests until I sold my exporting business.

Then I had to decide what products and what market sector were most likely to produce a profitable business. After looking through the files of material supplied by my China contacts I chose a particular industry sector about which I had some knowledge, and I also knew of a big need in that market.

I knew about that need because several relatives worked in a particular field and I recalled hearing them all complaining about supply problems. These were:
1. Failure to deliver on time when specific deadlines were critical.
2. Appalling customer service, including suppliers’ employees knowing almost nothing about their products.
3. Constant quality problems, with breakages being commonplace.

Because I had visited so many factories in China I knew how to choose ones that produced good quality, on time, and at reasonable prices. I obtained samples and used those samples to make B2B sales.

Those sales were helped by me being able to convince prospects that I would always deliver on time. A guarantee of goods supplied free if delivered late was the clincher. I was able to make that bold offer because I chose suppliers who actually kept to my deadlines. Delivery from China was quicker than local manufacturers could offer. The quality I purchased, and re-sold, was far superior to what my competitors were supplying. I also went the extra mile with more than generous guarantees.

Sales grew rapidly, and I employed family to help handle the growth. That growth quickly became too much for all willing and available family members to handle, so I chose franchising as the way to continue growing.

The method I used to sell franchises was to employ commission reps for locations where it had become impractical for me as a salesman to continue visiting. I set up local addresses and telephone numbers. Calls to those numbers were all automatically diverted to our head office.

For those interested, my commission structure was: 20% for sales resulting from our advertising leads, and 30% for all sales generated by cold calling. Ask me later about “warm calling.”

Commission reps knew that once I sold a franchise for that territory it was the franchisee’s choice whether or not to keep them on. Consequently, quite a few established territories were sold to commission reps.

Eventually I had a franchise network in four countries. I taught my franchisees how to safely source the product range, and handle the importing without needing to know all the rules and regulations, though most preferred to buy from my established suppliers.

Walter
P.S. For an interesting read see @Pershing's thread:
Make money with B2B ecommerce, even with just 1 product
 

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ambrosinibello

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Question...I saw your post almost a year back and had many other things going on but I archived it to if I ever needed to go over it.

How do you feel the business will be affected by the Trump tariff tax on Chinese products? Is this something to consider moving forward?
 

Raoul Duke

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Walter Hay

Walter Hay

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