Selling Across Culture

Almost all selling today means selling across cultures, and it requires having the ability to recognize culturally based behaviors and adjust your selling style to them if you want to be successful.  We call that Selling with a Global Mindset and having an attitude of respect for other ways of approaching the sales process. Of course, all the basic selling skills still need to be put to work, but to excel, you need to augment those. Here are some tips that can be helpful as you make your way around the world.

  1. Develop some cultural self-awareness. Learn a little about your own cultural preferences. This will help you understand how to approach others and what you might need to do to adapt your style and expectations.
  2. Take your time. Decisions will probably take longer to make than you anticipate.
  3. Learn as much as you can about the country you’re negotiating with. It will help you enormously in all the steps of the sales process.
  4. Learn as much as you can about how relationships are built and trust gets created. Again, relationship building is a key element of developing a positive experience as you begin to sell across cultures.
  5. Be sure that your credentials and credibility are established early. You may do this through a trusted referral or a mutual contact, or you may want to send your credentials ahead of time to the prospective customer. It’s always best to have local references and even a local coach
  6. Learn how decisions get made and who makes them. Is it one person—the one who has the highest seniority or is it the one who is affected the most by the decision? Is it a group decision or an individual who decides?
  7. Observe and emulate local behaviors, but not to the point of losing your genuineness.
  8. Be as open and transparent as you can genuinely be, but make it fit the culture
  9. Meetings may not serve the same purpose as you expect. Be aware that meetings may not be places where decisions are made.
  10. Learn how to read local body language and non-verbal cues. This is crucial, especially during the question phase.
  11. Understand how your customer communicates so as to not misinterpret either direct or indirect language.
  12. Have well done translations of your leave-behind material. Be sure that all questions are answered in this material.
  13. Address everyone formally unless invited to do otherwise.
  14. Always be prompt and predictable, even if others aren’t.
  15. Present details and support all your claims with data.

Everyone who’s ever sold for a living has great stories to tell, and telling stories remains a part of a sales person’s toolkit. However, as you tell stories in other cultures, you need to bear in mind that jokes often don’t translate well, while assuming that customers or prospects will often not have the ability to relate to many of your day-to-day experiences. So, as we point out above, be respectful and pleasant and don’t be surprised if your customers are skeptical of your claims and don’t smile; in their cultures, they have no reason to. 

For a full discussion of Selling Across Cultures with a Global Mindset, join us for our webinar on Septmber 14th. Register here for one of our sessions.