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Setting sail into uncharted waters

By Shi Jing (China Daily)

09:48, June 27, 2013

An international yacht exhibition in Haikou, Hainan province. It is expected by China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association that there will be more than 100,000 yachts owned by Chinese people within the next 10 years. Provided to China Daily

Boat dealership has expansion plans in spite of the downturn in global economy

Putting your head into the center of the Dyson vacuum fan attracts customers to your stand at a trade fair, Lars Petersen, general manager of Jebsen Marine Division, told his young team members at the start of the China (Shanghai) International Boat Show in mid-April.

People might wonder why the Dyson fan is on show at the stand of the exclusive dealer of British luxury yacht brand Fairline. It turns out it is part of the package that international luxury distributor Jebsen Group has come out with this year. If you buy a boat, you get a Porsche car, wine and Champagne plus a Dyson fan. Petersen calls it "quite nice cross-branding".

From a quick look at Petersen's profile, it can be easily seen the package promoted this year is related to his 15 years of experience working for the Porsche side of business at Jebsen.

The 48-year-old went to Hong Kong in 1994 and started dealing on the Chinese mainland from 2004. The company opened its first Porsche Center in Beijing in 2001.

Now, as general manger of the marine division, a position to which he was appointed in 2010, Petersen is making use of the network he is proud to have built up.

"We go into the showrooms, talk to existing customers and introduce to them what other products we have. The customers in general feel confident because they know us and they have spent money with us," he said.

Although Petersen does not speak Mandarin, which he regrets, he claims himself to be "half-Chinese" and to know very well how to deal with rich Chinese people. The trick is to find a connection.

"I bet you drive a Porsche" is usually the patter that Petersen starts with when he first meets a customer. Once they know Lars was involved in Porsche sales, the ice is broken.

"It's all about guanxi in China," he laughed.

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