How does an international Machinery firm Sell in China?

How does an international Machinery company sign contracts in China (without having an office)


In the fall of 2016, John, the export manager of a North American major machinery firm, lost hope.

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He thought he would never be able to sell any of its machines into the Chinese market.

He didn’t spare his efforts, making round trips several times a year for 2 years with his team to attend exhibitions all around China, where many visitors came to their stand to have a chat.

Every time he came back home super excited and full of hope, a briefcase loaded with business cards.

As customs want to do when he came back to the office, he sent e-mails to every contact he got.

1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months later…and despite sending numerous reminders, John didn’t get any reply from the contacts he got in China. John was so disappointed and desperate.

He just felt like the company lost money for nothing.

After all, maybe Chinese buyers didn’t need its machinery or it wasn’t adapted to the market, or maybe not having an office in China would refrain its potential buyers to buy from its company.

When he was just about to abandon the idea to develop the Chinese market, he suddenly regained trust.

During a networking event, he met one of his peers named Adam, who was about to give him hope again.

Adam, who was running as well a machinery factory in the USA, managed to start to get customers in China after only 6 months of effort and without having to do any roundtrips to China and without having any office there or a Chinese business license.

After his discussion with Adam, John learned a lot about the Chinese market specificities. He realized that he had to implement a whole different strategy to succeed.

He then followed Adam’s advice, what did he do and what happened to John’s company?

What John had completely underestimated at first was the power of the Chinese internet and that the Chinese don’t do their research in English.

He also missed the fact that in China internet users don’t have access to Google, Facebook, YouTube…


Making its company’s website in English completely inaccessible in terms of used language but also terms of accessibility. Indeed, its website was hosted in the USA and blocked by the Chinese firewall, potential buyers were, therefore, unable to access it from China.

Therefore, the first thing was to make sure to optimize their website for China. Meaning getting it translated into Chinese, hosted in China, and optimized for the local search engine Baidu.

But it would not be enough to have a good ranking, just like SEO matters on Google, on Baidu, it is vital to have a good ranking, and be visible easily to make sure potential buyers would find them. Because the secret is that in China, buyers are sourcing online. When they look for suppliers, they would take the first 10 websites on Baidu according to their research and send requests to these suppliers.

After having launched a Chinese website for China and an optimum keywords strategy, after 6 months of efforts, John’s company was starting to receive leads from Chinese buyers as their website was appearing on the first page of Baidu.

But soon after, he started to lose his excitement again as his team still wasn’t able to close any deal.

He thought again of his conversation with Adam and remembered that he mentioned that reputation was a major key point to gaining buyers’ trust.

John wasn’t defeated and decided to work on his company’s reputation. To do so he made sure that buyers would leave good comments online on forums and publish some articles on online media as they are seen as trustable sources to evaluate a company’s reputation.

Then it finally happened!

3 months after working on its company’s reputation on the Chinese internet, John’s company finally signed its first contract with a Chinese factory!

1 million $, that’s the amount of the first machine John’s company sold to China.

All that, thanks to a dedicated digital strategy.

No more hassle to travel, no more huge budget to attend exhibitions.

John succeeded where he failed in the past from the comfort of his office.

Over time, John’s company maintained its efforts to keep a good ranking and a good reputation on Baidu, allowing them to receive dozens of leads each month, but most important signing on average 5 contracts a year worth between USD 1 to 3 million each.

Thanks to this strategy, they grew sales and activities in China like they never imagined they would. After 2 years, they even were able to build a factory in China to meet the market’s demand.

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