It's Easier Than You Think to Sell Overseas

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- Many large corporations have survived the past few years by looking beyond the dismal U.S. economy for profits. Thinking globally paid off; throughout 2010, overseas sales boosted revenue for companies ranging from Caterpillar ( CAT) to Kraft ( KFT).

Could selling overseas be a winning move for your company?

In taking steps overseas with your company, you don't have to figure out everything on your own. The key is to find the right facilitator to show you the ropes.

At first glance, the challenges seem daunting, which is why so many owners simply don't think going international is an option. If you're unfamiliar with foreign markets, you won't know which countries would be a good fit for your products. Even if you do have a target market in mind, language or cultural differences might hold you back -- not to mention concerns about your business' legal standing in another country. What recourse do you have if a potential partner doesn't hold up their end of the deal?

The good news is that you don't have to figure out everything on your own. The key is to find the right facilitator to show you the ropes.

For general advice and information, your first stop should be your local Export Assistance Center. Funded and run by the U.S. Commercial Service (an arm of the Department of Commerce), these offices specialize in advising small businesses how to export overseas. There are more than 100 assistance centers across the country; find the one closest to you by visiting buyusa.gov.

While American businesses have been using Southeast Asian companies as suppliers for years, rising standards of living means countries such as China and Korea have become increasingly open to buying American. The Commercial Service's AsiaNow program has been specially tailored to get U.S. firms into growing Pacific markets; it even produces a "best prospects" list that highlights the best growth opportunities in each country by industry.

For China in particular, working with U.S. government backing helps smooth your way in. American businesses have access to Commercial Service offices in six major cities, as well as American Trading Centers in 14 second-tier cities. If you can't travel there in person, the staff will set up videoconferences with potential business partners.

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