Before I started my own consulting business I worked for a variety of industries, mainly related to communication and new technologies. I had daily contact with clients in a sales capacity, sometimes with more marketing responsibilities than others. But I always dealt with international clients. Clients from different cultures to the company I represented. I negotiated sales, facilitated sales and over the years I worked in all of the functions within the international sales process.
International Selling Was The Only World I Knew
International selling was easy for me because I developed cross-cultural skills very early on. And I always try to find the right way to connect with people, even across cultures. Besides, living in a foreign country and being fully integrated inside this foreign country, adapting to different cultures comes naturally to me.
Dealing with international clients was the only thing I knew.
The Differences In International Selling
I’ve had my business for almost 2 years now, and I now see how big the differences are between selling to international clients and selling to people from your own country.
Here are 12 reasons why international selling is harder:
- When you’re selling to international clients you have to focus on trust all the time. Losing trust is one of the biggest reasons why you lose international sales. Cross-cultural differences create a minefield of possible trust breakers. All salespeople know they need to build trust and actively do this. But in an international environment the cultural differences increase the difficulty in nurturing, building and maintaining trust on many different levels.
- When you’re selling to international clients you might not notice when you lose trust. This is the hardest one to deal with. Just as cultural differences create trust breaking situations, they also make it difficult to see when you lose trust. And when you lose an element of trust without realizing it and continue selling, this creates complex situations which are not good for sales.
- When you’re selling to international clients you also have to deal with your own personal reactions to different cultural situations. Learning how to deal with our own personal cultural baggage and not let it interfere with international business takes work. And it can also raise difficult questions to answer concerning personal integrity and personal ethics. Learning how to separate reactions to these and how to act appropriately is hard work.
- When you’re selling to international clients you have to identify any differences in doing business, often beyond the scope of sales. Different countries do things differently, we all know that. And yet it is surprising how many of these differences can pop up and effect your business and your selling.
- When you’re selling to international clients you have to look for wrong assumptions which can pop up in unusual places. Many cross-cultural blunders happen because of wrong assumptions. In sales wrong assumptions can be disastrous.
- When you’re selling to international clients you have to monitor what is said and the different understandings of what is said. People can take away different understandings for a variety of reasons: wrong assumptions, cultural differences in communication, and different levels in language skills. You simply cannot do business when both parties have different understanding of what is said. So you have to keep your ears open continually and summarize understandings at regular intervals.
- When you’re selling to international clients you need to become skilled at multitask monitoring. There are many different things to monitor in international sales. Trust, mutual understanding, wrong assumptions are just a few related to the communication. You also need to monitor how cultural differences impact certain aspects of the business deal itself. There are also risk elements to monitor. International selling requires excellent multitasking skills just to monitor the different levels of what’s going on.
- When you’re selling to international clients you have to be flexible and maintain your business focus at the same time. Different cultures have different styles of doing business. So you need to be flexible and adapt to these differences. When you are not used to certain situations it is easy to lose your business focus. Being both flexible and business focused can be challenging at times. It takes practice and skill to master this.
- When you’re selling to international clients you must always be ready to adapt to unexpected situations. Both the ability to adapt and the readiness to adapt are important. Unexpected situations are common in international business. Dealing with this change demands personal energy.
- When you’re selling to international clients you have different risk factors to take into consideration. There is always a more elevated risk factor in international business. Successful international salespeople know how to be the lookout post for any relevant risk factors for his business. International selling is a more varied occupation.
- When you’re selling to international clients you need to adopt a marketing hat as well. The role of lookout post also involves marketing feedback. Most sales professionals understand the valuable role they play to their companies marketing functions. In an international environment this marketing role is critical. The international salesperson is usually the only person with constant direct insights into his company’s market.
- When you’re selling to international clients you must have a very clear vision of your business goals and the framework you work in. Without an accurate and clear vision and understanding of your company’s goals you will not be able to find the best way to do all of the above. In international sales negotiations this alone is a very powerful tool.
The Multiplying Effect
Skilled sales professionals will probably nod their head and say they do all of the above already. But there is a multiplying effect which makes these tasks harder in international sales.
What’s your experience?
- Have you sold to both international clients and clients from your own country?
- What differences do you see between selling to international client and clients in your own country?
- What do you think, how is international selling harder?
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Sales
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