Is it time to take your business prospecting?

Josh Graff
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There's never been a more important time to focus on international trade (Source: Getty)

Before the seismic events of this summer, it was clear that we modest Brits needed to be more proactive in our pursuit of commercial opportunities overseas.

British firms are trailing behind bolder European counterparts when it comes to developing relationships abroad, with recent LinkedIn data showing that less than a third (31 per cent) of UK prospecting activity on the platform was focused internationally before the Brexit vote. Compare this to 68 per cent in Ireland, 62 per cent in Germany, and 41 per cent in Belgium, and you get the picture.

But don’t despair. The digital age means it’s never been easier for businesses to make cross-border connections. And even if your company already operates abroad, these LinkedIn golden rules will help you to get ahead of your continental competitors and ultimately boost your business’s bottom line.

Don’t forget who you – or your team – know

Collectively, organisations have a wealth of contacts that they can tap into to broaden their export network. As well as connecting with ex-colleagues, friends and acquaintances on LinkedIn, look beyond your own little black book and harness the power of your whole team. This will open the door to new contacts who could well be working in countries where you’re looking for opportunities.

Fish where the fishes are

You might think you know what your key markets are, but have you considered looking further afield? The global economy has never been more interconnected, with pools of opportunity springing up everywhere.

Do your research; if you want to target the software sector, for example, a good starting point is to look where engineers are located. Use these cues to refine your prospecting strategy.

Be focused and make sure you stay relevant

Know who you want to target? Look at their company page on LinkedIn and see if you have any first or second degree connections that could recommend or introduce you. Then see what they’re up to, and work out what the most valuable approach should be. Remember: you only have one chance to make that all-important first impression.


In the same way that you wouldn’t introduce yourself to someone then stand in silence, don’t just connect with people – make the effort to talk to them from the outset. A great way of interacting is to join the most relevant LinkedIn group. Not only will it help you gain knowledge and share your expertise in a highly targeted environment, you could also wind up in conversation with that elusive contact you want to do business with.

Keep flexible

Markets evolve and people move, so make sure you adopt a flexible approach to maintaining relationships with prospects and markets. Government policies, commodity prices and even referenda mean there’s no such thing as a status quo. The organisations that can adapt and spot opportunities quickly will be the ones that thrive. Every relationship you build has the potential to contribute to your company’s success. It’s never been so important to take a more proactive approach to international trade.

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