Today, almost all sales take place across cultures. This means that successful salespeople must have the ability to not only recognize culturally-based behaviors, but adjust sales tactics to match them – all while respecting the many different ways of approaching the sales process.
We call that Selling with a Global Mindset.
Of course, all your fundamental selling skills need to be put to work. But to excel, you need to augment them by genuinely weaving cultural awareness into every step of the sale.
Learn About The Culture You’re Doing Business With
Cultural context and a global mindset will help you tremendously when doing business internationally, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about the country you’re negotiating with. Consider cultural aspects like the communication dimension. Learning how your customer communicates can help you prevent misinterpreting either direct or indirect language. Similarly, learn how to read the local body language and non-verbal cues. This is crucial, especially during the question phase of selling.
It’s also important to understand the role of meetings, because meetings may or may not serve the same purpose in all cultures. In some cultures, for example, a meeting might not be the place where decisions are made. Be patient. Likewise, learn who makes decisions in the group you’re working with. Is it one person, perhaps the one who has the highest seniority? Or are decisions typically made by groups?
Develop Cultural Self-Awareness
Learning about your own cultural preferences might seem counterintuitive when doing global business, but it’s actually one of the best skills to have. Cultural self-awareness can help you understand how to best approach others and recognize what you might need to do to respectfully adapt your work style to their expectations and business preferences.
Cultural self-awareness can also help you better observe and emulate local behaviors without losing your genuineness.
Be Respectful, Professional, and Establish Trust
Since not all cultures share a rigid view of time and schedules, it’s a good idea to always be prompt and predictable, even if others aren’t. If you stick to schedules, be patient if you’re working with a culture that has a looser understanding of time.
Similarly, some cultures are more formal than others. It’s a good idea to address everyone by formal names and titles unless invited to do otherwise.
Otherwise, be sure to learn how relationships are built and how trust gets created. It’s a good idea to establish credentials and credibility early to help develop client relationships. You can either send your credentials to your prospective customer ahead of time, or share your information through a trusted referral or mutual contact. That said, it’s always a good idea to have local references or even a local coach who can help you approach situations in the most professional and respectful manner. Remember: relationship-building is a key element of developing a positive experience as you begin to sell across cultures.
When selling, it’s always important to present details and support all your claims with data – regardless of the culture you’re doing business with. But it can be even more important when selling across cultures. Offer to leave thorough translations of material so your prospective customers can review it after the fact. Be sure that all potential questions are answered in the material.
It’s also a good idea to take your time. Considering the many cultural factors at play, decisions will probably take longer than you anticipate.
Finally, be as open and transparent as you can genuinely be, but make it fit the culture. In other words, avoid oversharing details if you’re working with a transactional culture that doesn’t place a high value on developing personal relationships and sharing personal details.
When selling across cultures, a global mindset is the best skill to have because it will help you stay genuine while respectfully adapting your style to the culture you’re in.