Countries / Territories

Panellists Surprise Award

  • Panellists Surprise Award

    Proexport Colombia won the Panellists Surprise Award 2004.


    Changes were made, with the wider objective of increasing Colombian exports, so that new management could set clear business objectives, measure the real impact of what it was doing and offer additional opportunities for advancement by its staff.

    Proexport refocused its activities, with a mission to “identify, manage and conclude business opportunities of Colombian exporters through international marketing activities”. It applied private sector business practices to a public entity and was able to measure the impact of its activities on exports.


    Enterprise development

    Proexport’s main clients were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In order to better assist them, it reformulated its services into two main categories:

    • Helping enterprises to become export ready, including general help to exporters.
    • Identifying market opportunities, connecting Colombian exporters with specific foreign importers, and tracking the outcome to a conclusion.

    Under “Expopyme”, the enterprise development part of its programmes, Proexport devised:

    • An academic programme, lasting 120 hours, teaching company export staff to create an export business plan.
    • “IntelExport”, a web-based service, which published information on sector opportunities (including trade statistics) for 40 countries, plus the possibilities for selling 26 services sectors in 29 countries. Since February 2003, some 2,600 combinations of sectors and countries were identified.
    • An information centre in Bogotá, which was replicated through “Zeiky”, a regional trade office network. Since 2002, Proexport’s Bogotá headquarters formed strategic alliances with 20 local partners around the country to provide local information and “hands on” assistance.

    Matching buyers and sellers

    Proexport developed a new CRM system for sellers and buyers, which allowed it to record both partners to a business encounter. For its service to match exporters with business opportunities, Proexport first carried out a priority sector exercise to identify, through its offices overseas, potential growth sectors in each market and then repeated the exercise in reverse to identify which sectors in Colombia could have competitive advantages in each market. The process was aided by the preparation of some 300 sector studies in 25 countries, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Multilateral Investment Fund. In comparing the two, Proexport prepared a matrix of countries and sectors where Colombian products would have a competitive edge and an opportunity to increase sales. The same exercises also produced names of potential suppliers and potential buyers in Colombia and abroad.

    The priority sector exercise allowed Proexport to be proactive in looking for potential or actual exporters to take advantage of the opportunities identified in each market. Each officer acted as an account manager who, with the company, completed a detailed form, information from which was entered into the CRM system. The Proexport office in the target market was thus able to access the information and confirm it, explaining why the particular product was likely to sell in the market concerned. The Proexport office abroad identified prospective international buyers likely to be good partners for Colombian enterprises. Details of both seller and buyer were contained in the CRM system, which provided real-time matching of exporters and importers, introduced them to each other and tracked the progress of the enquiries that resulted. The system could also be used to analyse past transactions and to update the priority sector or market strategy.

    Throughout the process, Proexport staff assisted both the Colombian exporter and the foreign buyer to conclude a sale. Although there was still minimal financial aid, the aim was to build long-term relationships between Proexport staff, Colombian companies and foreign importers based on value-added services, rather than treating the relationship as a one-off contact to conclude a particular deal.

    In 2003 and 2004, five business matchmaking forums were held with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; Peru; Canada and the United States of America; Venezuela; and Europe to which international buyers and Colombian entrepreneurs were invited.


    Proexport built new web-based tools to deliver its services, available through its web site, The various categories of visitor (exporter, purchaser, employee, student or researcher) were routed to specialist parts of the site. Firms registering on the site received tailored information on selected markets and sectors, as well as newsletters.


    Proexport’s staff were retrained to have a greater commercial focus. Individual staff members received part of their remuneration according to the business success of the organization, and the achievement of specific business achievement goals. Staff received 75% of remuneration as basic salary, with a further 25% taking the form of performance-related compensation. Additional bonuses were determined annually based on the performance of the individual, the group within which he or she worked and the overall performance of Proexport as an organization.


    The performance of Proexport was measured through a variety of key performance indicators. Colombian companies taking part in the business opportunities programme were required to identify sales made as a result of introductions effected by Proexport. Foreign importers that signed up to the programme were also asked to indicate the value of orders they placed with Colombian companies. By this method, Proexport received figures for certified sales/purchases that it attributed wholly to its own activity. The figures made no allowance for the effect of externalities, such as currency movements, which can impact on whether or not a deal was concluded. Through its cost accounting system, Proexport calculated the cost of each area of activity and set this against the export earnings of the companies who took part in each of the activities. Proexport thus produced a kind of “profit and loss account” and, therefore, calculated a cost:impact ratio for each area of activity.

    Performance Measuring and Monitoring

    Performance measurement and monitoring were considered extremely important. This was done through three surveys – of Organizational Environment, Performance Evaluation and a Customer Satisfaction Index.


    Increased coverage

    From its creation in 1999 to 2003, Expopyme took 2,107 companies through the academic programme. According to Proexport’s records, 732 of these became successful exporters by 2003. In 2003, Proexport provided services (of all kinds) to 6,479 businesses (exporters and non-exporters), an increase of 142% over 2002.

    Increased exports

    The businesses serviced by Proexport generated total exports of US$1.2 million. The matching of exporters and importers led to 2,333 opportunities, benefiting a total of 888 Colombian companies (of whom 342 were small businesses with exports of less than US$200,000 and 235 were medium-sized companies with exports between US$200,000 and US$5 million). Of the total number of opportunities, 65% resulted in actual deals.

    The 2003 and 2004 business matchmaking forums were estimated to have led to additional medium- and long-term business opportunities totalling US$150 million (which represented about 2% of Colombian non-traditional exports). A total of 1,124 international buyers and 8,200 Colombian firms attended these events. Of the Colombian companies, 61% participated in one event, 19% in two and 20% in more than two. Some 14,500 individual business meetings took place at the forums.

    Increased take-up of services

    The Intel Export site had 20,582 users; 2,944 of the 4,470 registered exporters requested tailored services. The Zeiky network had 6,961 users.

    Client satisfaction

    A client satisfaction study, carried out independently among a sample of more than 600 firms, showed an average 85% satisfaction rate with Proexport’s services. The highest percentage (95%) was attributed to the “attitude of the advisor”, while the lowest percentage (75%) was for support in business opportunities, which was Proexport’s newest service.

    Motivated employees

    Performance-related pay for Proexport employees was calculated each quarter, and resulted in 27 employees out of 187 receiving an annual bonus for outstanding performance and achievement of goals. In addition, 12 staff in 2003 were promoted within the organization as a result of their performance.

    Proexport as a model

    The matching of buyers and sellers, entering detailed information about what the organization can do for them and the outcome, requires not only the construction of a sophisticated IT system and its installation in all of the TPO’s offices dealing with the customers, but also a willingness on the part of staff, buyers and sellers to provide and process data on transactions and outcomes. The matchmaking business forums are more readily replicated, but need to be organized in locations that will attract the right participants.

  • 2004 TPO logo
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