Promoting Business Contracts: A Guide to Organizing Buyers-Sellers Meetings

Article excerpt

As part of its South-South trade promotion programme, ITC has developed an approach for assessing the potential for trade among developing and transition economies and assisting enterprises in accessing these markets. The approach comprises three stages. The first is the identification of import and export opportunities among a group of countries through a statistical trade-flow analysis. The second is the undertaking of detailed supply and demand surveys to confirm these opportunities. (See FORUM no. 2, 1997, "Supply and Demand Surveys: A Tool for Promoting South-South Trade," which describes this process.) The third stage is to translate these opportunities into business by bringing the potential importers and exporters together in a buyers-sellers meeting and providing them with a forum to negotiate on a one-to-one basis. The organization of a buyerssellers meeting is thus the culmination of an in-depth information collection and analysis process.

This three-stage approach is followed up by complementary trade promotion activities, including support at the enterprise level in product and market development, marketing missions, trade fairs and training events, among others. This article summarizes how to organize buyers-sellers meetings, based on a methodology successfully applied by ITC.

What is a buyers-sellers meeting?

Trade and contact promotion tools, such as trade missions, trade fair participation, special product promotions, and buyers-sellers meetings, are many and varied, each serving a different strategic purpose. These tools can be applied by trade promotion offices, business organizations or individual enterprises.

As a variety of platforms exist from which enterprises can establish business contacts, what distinguishes a buyers-sellers meeting from these other fora? And in what context can this method best be applied?

A buyers-sellers meeting is a trade promotion tool used to:

* Stimulate trade between enterprises in a group of countries that have little or no trade among them.

* Expand trade within a group of countries.

* Diversify the range of products traded within a group of countries.

* Exploit new business opportunities within the South-South context.

A buyers-sellers meeting is characterized by three important features:

1. It is product-specific. It covers only one product or product group (such as food and beverages) for which South-South trade potential has been identified.

2. It is enterprise-specific. Meetings between potential business partners are prearranged by the organizers on the basis of matching business interests.

3. It generates results, as the participating enterprises negotiate and transact business on the spot.

This value-added component sets buyers-sellers meetings apart from other contact promotion tools.

Why organize such meetings

From the organizers' perspective, buyers-sellers meetings provide the means to translate the political will to promote South-South trade into an economic reality, as trade is actually generated during the event.

Buyers-sellers meetings are particularly useful for regional groupings of countries, where trade among member countries is rather low, but the potential for trade expansion is considerable. By bringing together trading enterprises from different countries, the right contacts can be established quickly without the expense of travelling to various destinations or organizing an individual trade fair. Such meetings are therefore a cost-effective way of generating new trade, with guaranteed results, based on the preparatory work and the process of selection.

Buyers-sellers meetings have a number of useful spin-off effects. As they are organized with and by trade organizations in different countries, the meetings encourage "networking" among like-minded institutions for the purpose of promoting business among enterprises in the South on a continuous basis. …