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Think Globally, Act Locally…

Posted on: June 16th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

….AND then Think Again – Not all Austrians yodel!

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I have worked in Europe for half of a lifetime and then another half here in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the way we do business, the differences are vast and ignoring them can have devastating effects. Thinking Globally is great, but it’s also important to Act Locally.

To start with, Europe is not as uniform as the US. Don’t get me wrong, selling in the Midwest area of the US is vastly different than selling in the New York tri-state area. Having done both, it’s important to understand that in New York you literally have a “minute” (ever wonder how the “New York minute” came about?) to get your point across while in the Midwest people are a bit more patient.  Just because people in the South seem more relaxed and give you more time, doesn’t mean that they will buy from you. On the flip side, people on the Northeast Coast can be rather abrupt, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested.

Europe on the other hand not only has different geographies, but also a large number of different countries (EU & non-EU over 35) with vastly different languages. Within those countries there are also social and linguistic nuances, and prejudices that are older than the history of the U.S. coupled with a desire to stay authentic.

Below are some tips on how to be successful when venturing abroad or communicating with international audiences.

Don’t Think You Can Go It Alone

The biggest mistake would be to think that you can do business in another region without local presence or, at least advice. Hire a local business person within your industry and ask that person for advice on what to do and what NOT to do. Once you have that person on board, take their advice, understand and adjust to the cultural differences.

Geography Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

My home country Austria is located in the Eastern Central part of Europe, but don’t make the mistake to think that we are Eastern Europeans. We are by any means of the definition culturally situated in the West because of our history. A big American company made the mistake to divide Europe by geography and put Austria in the Eastern region (along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, etc. – all countries with emerging economies) instead of aligning it with Germany, Italy, Switzerland where Austria has not only traditionally been part of but also has close economic ties. The results were pretty devastating. The very successful Austrian management team resented the change and it was difficult to manage Austria within a region where there was no history of an open market economy until the Iron Curtain came down in 1989. Big mistake!

Try to Understand the Way Business is Done

Go easy on the PowerPoint and have a Cappuccino instead. Many of my friends in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy tell me that to this day business is done by building relationships, taking prospects and clients out, drinking and eating. While we here in the U.S. still enjoy meeting client contacts in-person, it’s no longer essential to the success of a company. I have done business with clients that I didn’t meet until year 3 into the engagement, something that is still rare in Europe. Wining and dining are still essential ingredients to being successful in many markets. And so, if you do not or someone you hire doesn’t embrace that concept, it will be hard to build trust.

English is Standard, but Watch out for Linguistic Differences

Of course, English is the universal language and most companies that want to do business internationally will hire people who speak English quite well. That doesn’t mean that they can master all the facets of the language.  Be careful in the way you communicate and make sure that what you are trying to say is something that is properly understood by your counterpart. Avoid idioms and explain your proposition in more than one way. I have sat in on many meetings with international companies and sometimes people try to translate certain terminology in a way where it doesn’t make sense in the other language. This can lead to confusion and mismanaged expectations

Understand Traditions and Heritage

Coming late to a meeting in Germany or Austria is really rather unacceptable. In Italy you will probably not leave a bad impression, only if you are late and a bad dresser, too! Joking aside (not really!), don’t make the mistake to think that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a lot in common just because we all speak German (at least in parts of Switzerland). While there are many similarities, the differences run deep and so do some animosities as well.

European countries are very proud of their heritage, their food and their traditions. When you make references, be sure that you really know what you are referring to. Austrians don’t yodel (as a matter of fact, most of us have never heard of, least of all watched “The Sound of Music”) and not all Germans are rigid.

In closing, my strongest suggestion is to keep an open mind and not to stereotype. Like in every sales situation, it’s best to observe, learn, ask questions, adjust and most importantly to listen. Humility goes a long way, especially when dealing with a different culture. Nobody likes to think that they are inferior and the best success can be achieved when we embrace rather than judge.

Pro-Choice! 3 Steps to A Better Sales Process!

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

In politics a very hot topic, but here it’s about giving your prospects a choice! A choice to say “Yes” or “No” quickly and safely.

Sales is a process, especially in a consultative sales environment and it starts with choosing the right prospect.

1) First, we need to research and target a prospective client company (Is it a good fit? Is it a good use of our time?)

2) Then we need to find the decision maker within that organization. Once we have that information, we can safely assume (looking from the outside in) that the person we are targeting could be a good prospect for our service offering.

3) The next step is to craft a message that will resonate. It should be succinct, to the point and relevant to our audience.

Recently, I was planning a trip to a southwest state capital. We are implementing a sales training program for a client in that area. My thinking was, why not tag on a number of sales meetings? This way I can make more use of my plane ticket and the 5-hour travel time.

While I was crafting my e-mail copy I remembered a best practice that I used a couple of years ago, but had forgotten since then. In one of my mastermind mentor groups we had recently discussed the importance of this practice for both the prospect as well as the service provider.

It is the art of having a prospect choose you based on selected criteria that you apply. It’s an easy way to get to a quick “no” if they don’t fit the criteria, but also a sure way for prospects who are a good fit for your service offering to select you.

Here is how it works.

In my email I pointed out that I would be traveling to the area where they are located at the end of the month. (First criteria: they need to be located in the area and available at that time)

Then I continued to describe what my clients generally have in common. Here’s a partial list:

1) Their revenue is at least $10Mio.

2) They are sales oriented and have at least one (ideally more) sales locations.

3) They embrace or would like to embrace a consultative sales approach.

May I share with you what happened?

I reached out to 50 companies. I had two responses and they both resulted in meetings. Qualified, good meetings.

One of the prospects immediately e-mailed me back saying,

“I got your e-mail, I visited your website and it looks like there could be a fit. Let’s meet”.

The reason why many of my existing clients are reluctant to do the “self-select” messaging, I believe, is a very simple and human one.

They are afraid to miss out.

And now that I think about it, that was probably the reason why I had “forgotten” my own best practice.

Deep down we all feel that quantity is one of the keys to success. The more, the better.

It’s what we have been taught. It’s all around us in the media, advertising, marketing.

Almost brainwashed! But not completely!

And it really couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to utilizing a consultative sales model.

The more targeted your approach, the better. The more you invite rejection or silence (no responses), the higher the likelihood that the meetings you book will be of high quality.

Why? Because your prospects will be very clear of who you are looking for in a future client.

I would gladly add another day or two to meet with prospects on my training trip to the southwest.

It means potential new business!

If the meetings are not qualified however, it could end up being a waste of my precious, already strained time.  But most importantly, it could be a waste of my prospect’s time and leave a bad impression.

We’re here to serve – not to force ourselves on others. If we decide to be selective and targeted, our prospects will appreciate it and we will end up with better meetings.

BUT, there will be a lot of silence and the response rate will be a lot lower. On the other hand, you will be running a lot fewer empty miles.

For some sales people it’s hard to live in silence. Can you handle it?

Why is your website so important as a prospecting tool?

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 by Monika No Comments

When you are selling a service, such as technology, advertising, PR or anything that is invisible and you require a consultative sales approach, your website is not necessarily a sales tool. It’s a vibrant, ever-present branding piece. Prospects will not buy your service because your site looks phenomenal, but it is the first impression of your organization, and first impressions count.

For prospecting and lead generation though, your website is essential. More often than not, your prospects will look at your site once they consider talking to you in more detail.

Reflecting Your Unique Positioning

Your marketing materials and your website need to reflect your unique positioning and the story you want to tell.  If you have a website (which is really your storefront these days) and your prospects see or read something that doesn’t reflect your core values or your unique positioning, it can certainly become an issue you won’t want to have to deal with.

Telling the Same Story

The challenge is that many websites were developed a while back and in the meantime your organization, services and products might have changed, perhaps even radically since then. So, in essence your sales people might be telling a different story than your website tells. If you are one of these companies where your website was developed in a rush, or some time ago and in time since then you have become a different company, your prospects will be confused.

Now I don’t recommend changing your website every single time small changes take place.

In essence, when developing your website it’s important that all communication vehicles, such as voice mail scripts, e-mails, website, brochure, etc. speak the same language. If what your sales people are saying doesn’t match your website or brochure language, your prospect will be confused and they might move on to the next site, which could be your competitor.

When perusing the web you can find service offerings, language and examples on a website that really don’t reflect the current situation of the company. Big companies generally have professionals solely responsible for their website management. But here the quality and consistency depends how well they are connected to the departments that make the changes and/or how well the departments inform the webmaster.

In smaller organizations the website is usually owned by one person and once it’s up and running it gets changed a lot, but very often without a distinct purpose. There is a lot of focus on color schemes, logos, graphics but not enough energy being spent on the content and the ease of use.

Avoid Website Vanity! Be Real!

Websites are there for prospects to gather information, to understand the unique selling proposition, to learn about a company at their own pace, in their own time. They are not there to solely impress with pretty pictures and graphics. Way too many times websites represent the wishes of the CEO (yes, I am talking to you guys again!) and they end up becoming vanity pieces (remember the Devil’s Advocate: Vanity, my favorite sin!) rather than a functional resource.

You don’t want the intro to be more impressive than the content of your website. There is a time to show off your creativity and smarts, and your website can be that place but not during the intro. Focus on your the key messages and your unique selling proposition. Be creative with substance and your website will be one of your top resource tools in your prospecting kit.