Face-to-Face Contact Reigns Supreme in a Virtual World

It’s often been said that you don’t know what you don’t know. Take Canadian importer, Mantab, for instance, for years they had been importing from Peru, but had never made a trip there. They communicated by email and developed a good relationship with their suppliers. These days, with advances in technology, it is a simple matter to develop virtual relationships using email, Skype and other web conferencing technologies. With the proliferation of some of these technologies, you feel like you are almost there with the individual you are talking to. But Martine Nepton, Mantab’s Main Buyer, discovered while on her first trip to Peru, that email is not enough if you want to build enduring relationships. “It is all about showing up. If you want to get to know a supplier, you have to show up, make contact and shake hands. It is important to shake hands because email is not enough,” says Nepton. Being able to meet current suppliers in Peru allowed them to cement the relationships that they had been building for years.

Located in Quebec, Mantab imports high quality canned fruits and vegetables. TFO Canada, through its Canadian Market Access Program offered logistical support to Mantab to participate in the Trade Mission to Expo Alimentaria in Peru. The logistical support enabled Mantab to send two representatives on the Trade Mission, which allowed them to cover more areas and meet every supplier at the event. Their presence at Expo Alimentaria translated into business for the Canadian importer. In addition to cementing their relationship with present suppliers, they were able to gain some new ones as well. While on the Trade Mission, Mantab met a non-Peruvian supplier who was exhibiting at the show, and they ordered containers of hearts of palm, which it received shortly thereafter. For another supplier, the organization ordered containers of roasted red peppers on the spot. When they received the shipment, they were so pleased with the quality of the product that they made a substantial order.

The biggest lesson that Mantab learned from participating in the Trade Mission, is the importance of showing up in person. And overall, it was a positive experience both personally and professionally. According to Nepton, “TFO was very well-organized and is a great organization. It was the bridge between us and Peru. It felt like they were taking care of us. Communication with Bertrand Walle was easy. We explained to him what we needed from the trade mission and he understood our needs.”

Nepton and her colleague met other Canadians in similar businesses, and to them, it was like one big family because they spent so much time together on the trip. They travelled together on the bus, and ate together at upscale restaurants that Walle recommended. It wasn’t only about business, but a nice social experience as well.

For Mantab, they had expectations from the Trade Mission, but the trip translated into something much bigger than they had anticipated. The company recognizes that it got the opportunity to show up because of TFO Canada’s Trade Mission to Expo Alimentaria in Peru. And it didn’t stop there, TFO made sure that Mantab got what it needed by asking questions, listening to the responses, and then responding to the needs of the importer. “When we think about TFO Canada, there is a big smile on our faces. We do not have anything negative to say about the experience. TFO covered all the suppliers, and Expo Alimentaria is the kind of show that Mantab would visit every two to three years to keep on top of things. It is the best way to discover what’s available in Peru and to discover new suppliers.”