How Transferable Are Sales Processes Across Culture Barriers?

If you are part of a global or multi-national sales organisation, or simply work for a sales team that export around the world, you will have noticed that a sales process that works well in one culture may not be nearly as effective in a different culture. Why is it that different national cultures can have such a profound impact on which sales strategies are successful whilst others fall by the wayside?

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In some work we have been doing recently with an international sales group, they are attempting to ‘import’ their highly successful sales methodology from overseas. There appeared, on the surface, to be some perfectly obvious reasons why this straight-forward, step-by-step sales process could easily be ‘lifted’ from the country in which it works so well and ‘installed’ in to the local sales effort. However, it soon became apparent that this wasn’t going to be as straight forward as was first assumed. There are a number of dimensions to culture which may get over-looked in the urgency of capturing a new market opportunity or keeping up with the competition.

From Hofstede’s seminal work on understanding and measuring cultural indicators it starts to become clearer why some dimensions – if ignored – can play a critical part in the success/failure of cross-cultural sales strategies.

Hofstede described four main indicators, later adding a fifth to provide a more comprehensive guide:

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PDI – Power Distance Index: the degree of inequality generally accepted as the norm, e.g. Denmark and Sweden score low

IND – Individualism Index: the tendency or preference for acting alone or belonging to groups, e.g. USA, Britain and Australia score high

MAS – Masculinity Index: prevalence of such traits as status, assertiveness, competition rather than quality of life, nurturing, stabilising etc., e.g. Japan, Italy and Mexico score high

UAI – Uncertainty Avoidance Index: preference for structure and order over chaos, e.g. Greece, Portugal and France score high

LTO – Long-Term Orientation: the degree to which actions are driven by long-term goals rather than immediate gratification, e.g. China and Japan score high

By using these factors as starting points; firstly, we can see where there may be differences between the originating culture and the receiving culture, and secondly, we can do something pro-actively about tailoring our sales methodology to account for these differences. It is, after all, what makes us all so interesting in the first place!

IQ, EQ or CQ – What Is The Best Predictor For Sales Success?

Most of us have heard about the debate between IQ and EQ and their relative importance for successful sales leaders. Yes we know that strong leaders need the smarts to figure stuff out, but we don’t want leaders who can’t relate to the very people they’re aiming to inspire; hence the equal or some would say superior, importance of EQ (the ability to understand emotional factors and the roles they play in your self as well as others). However there is now a growing body of evidence that suggests a strong correlation between successful leaders and CQ (Creativity Quotient).

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In the post-war years professor E Paul Torrance devised a test to examine and score creativity in school children. He suggested that creativity requires two key processes; divergent thinking – the ability to come up with random, previously un-connected ideas (what De Bono called lateral thinking aka ‘blue-sky’ or ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking) and secondly; convergent thinking – the skill of pulling together and combining the best ideas into solutions.

What is really fascinating is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those school children’s creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, authors, doctors, diplomats and software developers. Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently re-analysed Torrance’s data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future.

Bizarrely many people still believe that creativity is a ‘gift’ that you’re born with and that it is usually associated with ‘creative types’; artists, musicians, writers, etc. Certainly, in formal education, creativity is more commonly associated with the arts than other areas of the curriculum.

We believe that you can learn to be more creative. Just like learning a foreign language or playing a new sport, you may not be the next winner of Wimbledon but you can significantly improve your game with the right coaching. There are some basic principles behind the creative process and with regular practice individuals and whole organisations can learn to be more creative:

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Fact Finding – do the research and collect information/data, aim to know more about the background and to understand the context.

Problem Finding – explore the issues and difficulties; strive to fully understand the nature of the problems that arise.

Idea Finding – brainstorm as many apparently random ideas freely and without prejudice no matter how irrelevant or unconnected they may seem.

Solution Finding – combine previously unconnected ideas in original permutations looking for innovative syntheses.

By developing a structured approach to creative practice and systematically embedding creative exercises into your sales activities you can also reap the benefits of CQ.

Use Our 10-Point Checklist To Determine Your Sales Orientation

In our fast-changing age of diversity, technology and talent management, can a sales organisation continue with traditional didactic sales development “this is how you do it” style of training and gain any competitive advantage? As sales people increasingly aspire to be seen as business professionals, does the didactic approach have any relevance today?

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Which side of the table is your sales organisation on?

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In case you haven’t spotted the obvious; we believe that the traits described on the left-hand side of the table belong to the sort of organisation that favours the ‘didactic’ school of training and development for its sales people. The biggest problem with the didactic approach is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more of it you do – the more of it you need to do.

The characteristics in the right, we believe, are exactly those which will enable sales organisations to position themselves for the challenges of the 21st Century and lead the way in defining what a successful sales team can look like in a rapidly-evolving, increasingly competitive world.

Managing Performance: Performance Management in Action

Managing Performance forms part of the CIPD’s suite of guides to core human resources activity. As such it’s backed by academic research, and written from a United Kingdom perspective.
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Based on findings from a seven year study of what works and what doesn’t, Managing Performance covers a lot of ground, and highlights the key areas that people need to consider when designing a new performance management system.
The authors’ points are well made and clearly argued, backed up by a comprehensive literature review. This is book written by and for HR specialists, with plenty of data and references, which can make it seem overly academic for the business reader. However, as a solid introduction to the central elements of any performance management system, and a grounding in the arguments for different decisions, this book is a great place to start.

Project Management – Making A Difference Or Getting In The Way?

With the amount of change and restructuring happening currently; it seems to us that a large number of projects are being set up – to fail. Driven by the need to cut costs, work more efficiently or cope with increasingly more demanding workloads – well-intentioned projects are often not delivering the goods. From our recent work we have seen a number of reasons why this is happening: poor leadership, lack of commitment, technical problems, insufficient resources, to name but a few – so how can we make sure Project Management really delivers results?

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In reality Project Management is as much an art as it is a science. There are some excellent key principles that must be applied to ensure the fundamental elements all work effectively. And then there’s the deep, genuine understanding of the Project Manager around the nature of change and the ability to lead others through the essentially messy process of getting from A to B that only comes with insight born of meaningful experience.

The Project Manager plays such a crucial role in the efficacy of projects it should go without saying that they have the prerequisite competences – the skills, knowledge and mind-set – that produce successful project outcomes.

What makes a great Project Manager?

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  1. Project Mangers must ensure there is real clarity around the key objectives of the Project in order to build commitment and engagement
  2. They must be energetic and able to demonstrate enthusiasm to motivate stakeholders at all levels – consistently throughout the project
  3. Project Managers need to resourceful and creative in generating solutions to problems and getting others to contribute as well
  4. Diplomacy is vital as they are often dealing with stakeholders from diverse functions at different levels from operations right through to the C-suite, sometimes involving external stakeholders too
  5. They have to be able to communicate as effectively upwards and side-ways as they do to their direct reports and colleagues, both technical and non-technical
  6. Project Managers must be organised themselves and able to devise and follow plans whilst remaining flexible to respond to the inevitable curve-balls
  7. Determination and the drive to keep up momentum when hurdles get in the way, without bull-dozing through everything regardless
  8. And most importantly the desire (and ability) to learn – both from their mistakes as well as from their successes – and share this learning with others

 

Managing For Success

Managers today face more complex challenges than at any time in the past. With downsizing and de-layering there’s no room for passengers and the pressure comes from all angles. There’s plenty of literature out there on how to be a great manager, and TV programmes give us all kinds of perspectives on what it takes to succeed in business, from Mary Queen of Shops through Dragon’s Den to The Apprentice people get some interesting insights into how businesses are run, how ideas are developed and how projects can go horribly wrong.

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Good managers make great companies, translating the corporate objectives into meaningful messages that help people to understand what they need to contribute, managing performance and building motivated teams. That kind of uncommon good sense rarely makes it into popular or even business media and role models can be hard to come by.

Yet management training is often reserved for those who have years of management experience. Giving solid, practical management skills to first line managers and supervisors is perhaps the most robust investment an organisation can make in its future.

Structured Training’s Fundamentals of Management Open Course is designed around a core set of management competencies and is tried and tested, constantly updated to meet the needs of the modern manager.

Summer Reading Brought To You By Our Twitter Feed

Below we’ve pulled together some Tweets of ours that have either made us think, opened our eyes/ears, or just made us smile. We hope you find them as enjoyable.

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If you would like to follow us on twitter it’s dead easy to do, just click here.

Thought provoking lecture on one possible internet future

What kind of writer are you? Austin or Collins Proust or Archer

Provoking (for the West) piece by Andy Grove on how the separation of invention & production is affecting employment

Creativity is declining, fascinating Newsweek article explaining why, and what can be done

Every organisations’ culture has a political dimension. See hear just how (damagingly?) political the Vatican’s is

Uplifting story from Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO – really intelligent people take note

Great graphic that shows how Google works, simplicity is very complex

See London Underground trains in real time moving across London – a further glimpse of our technology future

BP oil spill coming to an office near you

Great evening listening. Music manipulation, everything swings!! – White Rabbit is brilliant

Students of CEO guru nonsense look no further. Ray Dalio Bridgewater Hedge fund legend has 200 principles. A taste here.