How to Develop High-Quality Import&Export Customers?

tendata blogTrade Data Provider

ten data blog05-09-2023

To quickly close deals with potential high-quality customers, you often need to go through five stages. These five stages are: "Contact", "Screening", "Engagement", "Breaking Barriers", and "Closing Deals".

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01 Contact 

Our first step is to actively or passively attract customers and bring them in. There are many ways to attract customers, such as through referrals from friends, attending trade shows, inquiries on online platforms, software development, and more.

Obtaining a customer's business card doesn't mean you have established contact; you still need to research and screen the customer's background.

However, every company enters the industry at different times, and their awareness of e-commerce may vary. Sometimes, there may be no important information available online or in the customer's contact details. In such cases, it's best to ask direct questions. For customers whose background you are not familiar with, I recommend asking the following three questions:

1. Have you ever imported our products from China before?

The first question is crucial to know if the customer has experience importing from your country. If the customer has never imported from your country and is just exploring, it can be challenging to establish cooperation, and negotiations may take a long time.

2. Which loading port, if yes?

The second question helps you understand which ports the customer mainly uses to receive goods. This can give you insight into the regions or provinces where their primary suppliers may be located.

3. Can you provide a general idea of your order quantities?

The third question provides an estimate of the customer's purchasing volume, helping with pricing and planning.

Once you've determined the customer's potential and quality, it's essential to reach out through various means like phone calls, emails, WeChat, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.

Every piece of information in customer inquiries, emails, or chat conversations needs careful analysis to find their points of interest and real needs.

During this process, it's essential to avoid monologuing. If the customer provides positive feedback or responds positively, it means you've made progress in the initial stage.

02 Screening 

The 80/20 rule often applies to customers; 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. Therefore, salespeople should focus their efforts on the smaller number of customers who have a more significant impact. Sales are probabilistic; the bigger the denominator, the higher the chance of closing a deal.

1. The 80/20 rule is a "magic potion" for sales.

You can classify customers into regular and major customers based on the 80/20 rule. While major customers make up a smaller portion of the total, they contribute significantly to sales. Recognizing the importance of major customers, many businesses offer different reward systems to attract them. Some even establish specialized departments to cater to this customer group. Additionally, they take measures to guide regular customers towards becoming major customers to increase sales quickly.

Applying the 80/20 rule in market sales can reveal valuable sales strategies, making it a "magic potion" for salespeople.

2. Prioritize existing customers' interests, just as you would for new customers.

The 80/20 rule also applies to sales to existing customers. Instead of focusing on acquiring new customers, which is what many salespeople do, salespeople should realize that existing customers can bring in more profits. Smart salespeople, while trying to create new customers, make every effort to convert customer satisfaction into lasting loyalty. Building long-term relationships with customers should be the goal of sales development.

3. Unearth the value of key customers.

A crucial aspect is determining where the 20% of customers who bring in 80% of the profits are located and retaining them. Applying the 80/20 rule can help uncover the value of key customers.

Customer loyalty: The main idea is to make the seller irreplaceable, fostering customer dependency. Loyal customers are an asset, as they are unlikely to be swayed by competitors. However, businesses should understand that in the marketplace, there are no permanent friends, only eternal interests. Therefore, companies must work on nurturing customer loyalty.

In essence, make the customer unable to leave you. If excellent service makes the customer dependent on you, provide the best service. If product uniqueness keeps them with you, maximize that uniqueness. The key is to seize opportunities when available and create them when they are not.

Recommendation A: If you have quoted the actual price and encounter heavy negotiation, you can consider a cooling-off period.

Recommendation B: To screen high-quality customers, you can offer free value-added services, but avoid free promotions. Purely free activities often bring negative results, such as spam and low-quality customers. Instead, provide more and better value-added services for a fee, making customers feel that your offering is worthwhile.

03 Engagement 

If you have experience in procurement, you'll know that you need to categorize each potential or current supplier into high, medium, or low priority. Strong relationships with high-priority suppliers, akin to "best friends," have high stickiness. Suppliers with a more indifferent attitude can be "exiled," only to be remembered during price comparisons. Suppliers who fall in between can be adjusted based on actual order situations. Similarly, when you work in sales, you are constantly evaluated by buyers who are considering whether you should be promoted or eliminated.

For example, many customers may take one to two or even three to four years to place an order. This process often takes a long time because both you and the customer are silently observing each other. Customers need time to accumulate information and observe your actions. They won't tell you how well or poorly you're doing.

The saying goes, "Customers are always there, but they won't come if you don't reach out."

04 Breaking 

Barriers As negotiations progress, various issues will arise. Among these issues, there is always a core problem that needs to be addressed, like a ferocious tiger blocking the path to closing the deal. Common issues include payment terms, samples, trust, certificates, and more.

Here are real case examples from my career:


Potential customer S had an acceptable price, approved samples, and agreed to the delivery time, but got stuck on the payment terms. In their local market, they had always insisted on a 30% advance payment for the first cooperation and 70% upon receiving the bill of lading scan. They mentioned that all their current suppliers followed this payment method, some even had lower advance payment ratios like 20% or 10%. Our company's boss was reluctant to accept this, considering the risk, especially for the first cooperation and with FOB and a designated freight forwarder. Negotiations came to a halt. After consulting, discussing, and careful consideration, we decided to accept the customer's payment terms. This collaboration lasted for 5-6 years, and it proved that the customer was very trustworthy regarding payments.


I got in touch with customer M through a friend's introduction. M was a local professional brand distributor and a potential large and medium-sized customer. After quoting, negotiating on product details, and checking trade terms, the customer was interested in placing a trial order. However, they requested us to send them five product samples from the quote for testing and inspection, and they wanted us to cover all international courier expenses. They made it clear that they would only proceed with the order if the samples met their requirements, and if we didn't send the samples or cover the shipping costs, further communication would be unnecessary. I didn't immediately respond to the customer's email but took 3-4 days to think about it. Eventually, I decided to provide the samples for free and cover the shipping costs. This led to the confirmation of the samples, issuance of the purchase order, and the start of our first collaboration.


I received a high-quality inquiry from a customer C with whom we had been working. C's inquiry was very detailed, with clear requirements, and they showed a sincere attitude. They expressed their intention to find new suppliers and highlighted the issues they were facing with their current suppliers. After multiple email exchanges and lengthy phone conversations, the customer was satisfied with our pricing and delivery terms. However, strangely, they did not show any intention of placing an order; they just wanted to maintain contact. This went on for about a year. In the second year, our company happened to participate in a trade show in C's country. To show our sincerity, we contacted the customer in advance to arrange a visit, during which we showcased our company's real situation and some insights into the industry and market. The customer was very pleased, and after we returned to our country, they proactively reached out to us and quickly placed an order.

05 Closing Deals

1. Avoid introducing new products to customers unnecessarily

Once you notice buying signals from customers, refrain from introducing more new products. Overwhelming customers with options can lead to decision fatigue, causing them to leave without making a purchase. Instead, guide customers to focus on the products they have already shown interest in, keeping their attention on those items.

2. Help customers narrow down their choices

Customers often hesitate when presented with too many product options, making it challenging for them to make a decision. To expedite the sales process, help customers narrow down their choices. Ideally, limit their selection to two or three options, or at most, three. If a customer wishes to see more, remove or set aside products they are less interested in. When removing products, do so naturally and casually, so customers don't feel ignored.

3. Prompt customers to decide on their preferences quickly

After customers have seen several products, many will remain indecisive, seeming to like multiple items. To help them make a choice faster, identify the products they genuinely prefer. Generally, the products that customers spend the most time looking at, ask more questions about, are more critical of, or touch the most are the ones they like the most. You can also compare the product they prefer with one they weren't enthusiastic about. This comparison helps customers decide more quickly.

4. Compliment the customer

Sometimes, customers have found a product they like, but they are still hesitant due to various concerns. In such cases, complimenting the customer and boosting their confidence can help close the deal. For example: "You have a great eye for this product. It's been selling very well lately, and many customers specifically come to our store for it. It offers an excellent balance between price and quality. If you decide to buy it, I can place the order right now."

5. Utilize the trial psychology

At times, customers may be willing to make a purchase but still have concerns, such as whether their partner will like it. In such situations, suggest they try the product at home. Provide them with reassurance and let them know their partner will likely appreciate the gesture. You can also mention your return policy to eliminate any worries.

6. Utilize the psychology of benefits

When a customer is contemplating a purchase but hesitating, remind them of the immediate benefits they will receive by making the purchase. For example: "Our products are on special for a limited time, and the current offer is very advantageous. Additionally, if you make a purchase now, you'll receive a free XX item, which includes a chance to win fantastic prizes. If you wait a few days to buy, you'll need to spend XX amount to have the same opportunity."

It's important to note that these five stages are flexible and not set in stone. Sometimes, all five processes are necessary, while in other cases, you can proceed directly to closing a deal. In the complex and ever-changing world of international trade, adaptability is crucial.

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