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Shssssssh! Don’t Tell Anyone How You Increased Your International Sales

December 9, 2010

Doug Barry is a senior international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service.

A best-kept secret is that domestic trade shows are great places to meet and sell to international buyers.  U.S. businesses that have discovered this relatively low-cost channel for drumming up new sales claim that exhibiting at the “right” shows can fill their order books for the entire year.


Download full video .mp4 (47 MB)
View more from the Trade Show Video Series

It may sound counter intuitive to make international sales without leaving the U.S., but the fact is that international buyers are attracted to large trade shows in the U.S.  And let’s not forget the draw of Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and other big trade show venues.

So what are the “right” shows out of the hundreds held annually across the country?  It depends on the industry you are in, but the first tier of shows to consider is those that offer the International Buyer Program (IBP), a service that facilitates buyer-seller matchmaking and made possible by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service.  IBP is an important part of the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

Shows are competitively selected each year based on their attractiveness to buyers in industries and countries that are considered best prospects for U.S. suppliers.  The range of industries this year is broad and includes obvious ones such as construction, power generation and restaurant equipment, as well as less obvious ones like dental hardware and funeral supplies.  Come to think of it death has always been a growth industry, and although post-life practices may vary by culture and country the market is enduringly global.

With almost 40 International Buyer Program shows to choose from many U.S. businesses will find one that’s suited to them.  Ideally, the process begins by contacting your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, part of the worldwide network operated by the Commerce Department.

Export experts will help prepare you to use services at the show to meet the international buyers that are recruited by U.S. embassies.  Preliminary contact and information exchanges are arrange beforehand, but the real business is done on the show floor and in a special area called the International Business Centers, which feature conference rooms for conducting negotiations.

Billions of dollars in sales are registered each year, and most of the U.S. companies making the sales are smaller companies.  So now that we’ve pulled the cover off this formerly best-kept secret, watch the four videos on the IBP (so far) and see for yourself how companies like yours are selling globally without going far from home.

5 comments

  1. I’ve been by some trade shows lately and haven’t seen the turn out you may have seen a few years ago. Is it the economy or use of virtual trade shows? It’s important to meet buyers, but what’s the most effective way.


    • Trade show attendance has rebounded and, barring unforeseen events, should continue to improve in line with the economy. If foreign buyers are what you are looking for, contact your local Export Assistance Center, or call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-872-8723.


  2. I am glad I found your website today and found this very interesting article on how to meet and sell to international buyers. I’ll be forwarding it on to a friend who is also interested in exporting and new job creation in the Duluth, Minnesota area. Thank you so much.


  3. I know how much these trad shows are supporting our main export industry! Apparel manufacturing and exporting is the highest foreign currency earner of Bangladesh. US is the major buyer and some specific trade shows becomes the buyer hunting ground for our manufacturers.


  4. A best-kept secret is that domestic trade shows are great places to meet and sell to international buyers. – This is definitely right.



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