You’ve heard people talk about how to do the sexy part of exporting-the research, the schmoozing, the travel and all the marketing and sales stuff that people think about when they think about the glamor of international trade.
But what I want to talk about is the not-so-sexy part of exporting: the basic export documents required for international shipping. It’s the stuff you need to do-and do correctly-to successfully deliver goods and make money. I’d argue that this not-so-sexy part of exporting is more important than the sexier side but maybe that’s just because it’s what I’ve been focusing on for more than 25 years.
With that in mind, here are 11 standard shipping documents for export that you need to understand in order to be successful.
1. Proforma Invoice
However, in an international transaction, your quote would be provided as a proforma invoice. That’s because your international prospect may need a proforma invoice to arrange for financing, to open a letter of credit, to apply for the proper import licenses and more.
A proforma invoice looks a lot like a commercial invoice, and if you complete it correctly, they will be very similar indeed. A proforma invoice specifies the following:
- The buyer and seller in the transaction.
- A detailed description of the goods.
- The Harmonized System classification of those goods.
- The price.
- The payment term of the sale, which would typically be expressed as one of the 11 current Incoterms.
- The delivery details, including how and where the goods will be delivered and how much that will cost.
- The currency used in the quote, whether it’s U.S. dollars or some other currency.
Be sure to date your proforma invoice and include an expiration date. There can be a lot of volatility in the export process, so minimize your risk by setting a specific time frame for your quote.
I often get questions from people who look at this sample commercial invoice and wonder why it looks so different from the invoices their company uses for domestic orders. Keep in mind that the invoices you create from your company’s accounting or ERP system are accounting invoices used to get paid, not export invoices.
The commercial invoice may look similar to the proforma invoice you initially sent your customer to serve as a quote, although it should include additional details you didn’t know before. For example, once you have the commercial invoice, you probably have an order number, purchase order number or some other customer reference number; you may also have additional banking and payment information.
Make sure to include any relevant marine insurance information and any other details that will ensure prompt delivery of the goods and full payment from your customer.
3. Packing List
- Your freight forwarder may use the information on the packing list to create the bills of lading for the shipment.
- A bank may require that a detailed packing list be included in the set of documents you present to get paid under a letter of credit.
- Customs officials in the U.S. and the destination country may use the packing list to identify the location of certain packed items they want to examine. It’s much better that http://www.paydayloansarizona.org/ they know which box to open or pallet to unwrap rather than needing to search the entire shipment.
The packing list identifies items in the shipment and includes the net and gross weight and dimensions of the packages in both U.S. imperial and metric measurements. It identifies any markings that appear on the packages, and any special instructions for ensuring safe delivery of the goods to their final destination.