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Question added to topic Grow Your BusinessNovember 16, 2007

What is the best way to approach people about a potential partnership?

Well, to start, I am 20 years old and new to conducting business at a corporate scale. I am trying to export my families lighting products to the U.S. The company is a well known lighting manufacturer in the European market and has around 250 employees. As the only employee/family member that lives in the states they are relying on me to make this happen and I wanting to make this happen. While I am definitely interested in doing this, I want to know how to go about selling some of our components to other company's, where to get there information and who to contact most of all. One primary problem I don't know how to go about obtaining a partnership as someone very new to this. In contacting potential buyers, should I be direct or indirect about a partnership?
Sorry, I'd like to make it simpler, but there isn't a best way to approach partners. It's like asking the best way to approach a person you don't know, it all depends on the specifics. Factors like who you are, what your business is, who they are, what their business is, do you know them or not, what do you want from them, what resources you have, how does that compare to resources they have ... it's like asking what's the best way to play a chess game.

One good step to take is getting a lot of information. Do your research. You should be able to find out the names, addresses and websites of the more important players in your industry, including the manufacturers, distributors, retailers as applicable, and major buyers. That's a web search. Use the same kind of techniques you used to find the Entrepreneur.com website. If you'd like more, there are chapters on researching a market and researching an industry in my free online book Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning. Read them.

Another good step is telephone research. Do the less personal research first, on the web, and then get on the phone. Just guess who to call, but make sure with each person you call who isn't able to answer your questions, you don't get off the phone without asking them who they would recommend you call. Eventually, you'll get answers.
Tim Berry is the president of Palo Alto Software Inc., based in Eugene, Ore., which produces business planning software. He is also the author of 3 Weeks to Startup and The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press.

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