If I had sent a sales force with a good new product to sell in 21 countries of the world I would have been very disappointed if they came back with just one success. I would have been even more worried, if the target was to sell to 12.
The recent discovery that only one overseas Fifa voter backed the UK World Cup proposal goes alongside the news that we still sell more to Ireland than to India, Brazil and China combined. We have to ask what don’t we understand about the modern world?
Let us assume in the case of Fifa that their stated reasons for our failure were true. We hear they wanted newer territory to take football to. We understand they like bids with plenty of new construction and a great legacy from all the work. What had happened to our market research? Such a brief meant either we should not compete, as it was not for us, or it meant a different vision for any UK bid. Why didn’t our bid concentrate on how we would spread the word, sell the tickets and the passion around the globe and make the World Cup relevant for countries without a great football heritage? Why didn’t we offer to harness some of the future huge UK Overseas Aid budget for football related projects in poorer countries as a central part of the bid?
Taking the wider problem of how we export more, there are the questions of whether we make the right cars, machinery and electronic products for developing markets. If we do, are we good at explaining and adapting them to different conditions? Clearly some of our best companies do, and are very successful exporters.Overall the results still are a long way off the pace.
We also need to discuss the issue of inducements. Sensible British business people know the UK has a tough law against bribery and uphold it in all their dealings . This was extended in 2002 to include making a UK business person responsible for the action of any independent business agent working for them in an overseas territory. As there are some overseas countries where incentives or personal favours to the purchaser are more common it means there are territories where any law abiding UK business person is wise to avoid, or expects to fail with some of their straight forward inducement free offers. Is this true of the UK’s leading competitors? Where do sensible client entertaining, explanatory trips and seminars and free samples end, and unreasonable personal benefits for a customer begin?