Monthly Archives: August 2018

Selling in other countries: something to try on your next holiday

At the age of 47 I have finally made it to the USA and it was nothing like I expected it to be. I normally try not to form any specific expectations before I visit a new country, but America is so central to our world it is hard not to. What was the biggest broken myth for me? From a business perspective, I found their selling culture very different to what I had expected. As a country which believes in self-reliance and making money, I expected everyone to be very pushy. Whilst there are a lot more adverts everywhere, I found face to face selling was done in a very friendly and low-key manner. Yet it was at the heart of every operation we came across, from camp sites to service stations and restaurants, everyone had special offers and extra choices designed to get you to spend more money. To my mind, this combination made the sales process very effective, resulting in a much higher conversion rate.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes and no.  Of course, providing superb customer experience is key and certainly something we can always do better. However, the way you approach your customers is very much based on their culture and therefore the American approach may not work so well out side of the USA. In fact, if you have ever been on sales training or read sales materials from the US you may well have found them a little cringe worthy. Yet over there it works perfectly well which proves that if you wish to engage with a customer you need to understand their culture as well as their needs and requirements. Here are a few examples of how a sales process is affected by culture:

  • According to the Freshtrax Blog, in Japan, sales are rarely closed in sales meetings. Corporate buying decisions are made behind the scenes in a series of meetings to which you will never be invited.  This is why Japanese sales staff carry a lot of documentation and prefer information-dense presentations which will later be used to discuss their product. Complicating matters further, even simple needs discovery can cause offence, since asking about your prospect’s problems, particularly in front of superiors and subordinates, implies that he does, in fact, have problems. This environment makes trying to sell directly challenging, so your best strategy is to identify your advocate within the organisation and teach them to sell your product.
  • According to Janis Chan, Cross Culture Trainer, group affiliation is the focus in China. It is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group. There are small groups in a Chinese corporation where the opinions and votes are pre-determined by the strong and cohesive in-groups. This is the norm of corporate decisions, directions, and culture. Hence, in order to improve your chances of success you must talk with insiders to get a clear map of the organization chart with the direct lines and underlying dotted lines before you approach them.
  • When selling in Dubai, according to the Entrepreneur Blog, you need to think before you speak. Emiratis and other Middle Eastern business people working in Dubai love a good joke as much as anyone and can be uproariously funny. But profanity is a total no-no in the Muslim professional world, so avoid R-rated language and making disparaging comments on Islamic culture – a person could be fined, jailed or deported.

This is all very interesting but it’s important to remember that in many ways the world has become a smaller place these days and we therefore deal with diverse cultures and origins even when operating within the UK. The better you understand your client the closer you can get to them and increase your chances of success. This is true in general but understanding your prospect’s culture is a big part of it.  If you are unsure where to start, click here for more information or get in touch to discuss further.

How to make friends on your next flight- why do asking questions work?

If you were sad enough to type: ‘how to impress strangers?’ on Google, you will come up with a wealth of information. Read through it and almost all pieces agree that to get on with strangers you must:

  1. Smile
  2. Make it about them
  3. Ask open-ended questions

Carry on reading about open-ended questions and you might come across this interesting story; according to a study by psychologist Arthur Aron called ‘The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness you can make someone fall in love with you by asking them 36 open-ended questions designed to foster the atmosphere of mutual vulnerability and intimacy that a romantic relationship thrives on…

You might not be looking to meet strangers or make them fall in love with you at all. However, if like many of us you are going on holiday this summer, you might end up sitting next to a stranger for some time. This time, rather than putting your headphones on and watching Netflix throughout, try and ask your fellow passenger some open-ended questions and see what happens. If nothing else, you will be practising the most important sales skills: asking questions and listening to the answers.

There are many books about questions for selling from How to Persuade and Influence People by Phillip Hesketh through The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy to How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. They all provide good advice on asking questions when selling. So why is everyone so fixated on asking questions, you might ask?

Brad Sugars at ActionCoach explains it well through his formula for change, stating that in order to bring about change (in other words close the deal) pain has got to be greater than the resistance to change. I agree, though to understand their pain and ascertain how great it is, you need to ask a lot of questions and do plenty of listening. Yet, so many of us run to offer a solution as soon as we hear half a hint for a need. It is in our nature to want to help out and be able to offer advice, but the answer to increasing conversion, or falling in love if you like, is listening and asking more questions.

How about this quote as an ending: ‘What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question…’ Jonas Salk, American medical researcher and virologist

If you find that your sales team needs some help with asking better questions, get in touch.