When sales teams that are successful at home enter foreign markets, they must be aware that there may be serious intercultural differences regarding conducting sales conversations and behaviour. It is a matter of realising that familiar strategies simply do not work as well abroad as they do in the domestic market. Only those who are aware of the differences between the home and foreign markets and consciously recognise them can act appropriately and really control every level of the sales process.
Of course, this is especially true for customer qualification (discovery), which ultimately runs through the entire sales process. In order to develop a customer's pain points into a tangible need and then to work out the decision criteria and processes really clearly, a high level of trust must be built up in sales talks.
Trust, understanding, selling - the old rule that "a customer buys trust and security" actually applies anywhere in the world. However, how a basis of trust is established in another country in order to be able to qualify the customer in such a way that a deal does indeed come out of it in the end is often very different from what a salesperson knows from their home market.
And even in the late phases of the sales process, unprepared sales managers are caught off guard by unexpected decision-making criteria, stakeholders keeping a low profile, sudden demands or additional process steps and then lose control. Simply because they didn't know what to look out for, what warning signals there might have been and what misunderstandings still exist.
When awareness of these challenges is firmly embedded in a sales team, individual members will prepare themselves for exactly what their foreign customers expect in terms of communication and behaviour, what is "normal" for them and what is not. Closing the Culture Gap means being able to recognise cultural cues - both the obvious and the more subtle - at every stage of the sales process, interpret them correctly through data-driven, practical culture-specific knowledge, and adapt to them in a way that does not compromise the effectiveness of the sales process.
Every sales employee (and customer) adds their own personality to the sales process. And this naturally influences how they act, think, plan and ultimately communicate. In their home market, a reflective salesperson knows how to deal with their customers and what challenges they face with the respective personality types, also with regard to their own "operating system".
In foreign markets, on the other hand, it is often much more difficult to differentiate personality traits and reconcile them with behavioural norms common in the country. Depending on the country profile of a foreign market, the personality traits of the salesperson themselves can either be played to strengths or must be bridged as weaknesses. We then speak of a so-called Personality Gap between a salesperson and their potential foreign customers or the entire foreign market with regard to the generally applicable norms and values.
The Personality Gap is therefore about the very personal challenges that a sales employee has to overcome with regard to the conditions in a specific foreign market in order to be able to manage the sales process there in a reflective manner and ultimately sell successfully. Knowing what is difficult for you personally when interacting in a foreign market and what suits you is undoubtedly a great advantage and can be recognised on the basis of a scientifically founded personality-country comparison.
By the way, when setting up an international sales team it is usually possible to find out which countries or regions suit an employee and which ones do not.
Not surprisingly, the Culture Gap and the Personality Gap are closely linked to the way a salesperson communicates with their customers, i.e. how they operationally implement the sales process in each individual phase and fill it with life, so to speak. And this brings us to the third Global Sales Gap, the Communication Gap. Every sales employee will have such a Communication Gap in their communication with foreign customers, which needs to be closed. And this is true in all areas of communication: verbally and in writing, virtually and in presence, on social media and on the phone, in follow-ups, in the preparation of quotations and in negotiations.
For example, while in one market a direct and confident language can be successful, in other countries such a style of communication is perceived as aggressive and can quickly lead to conversations being terminated. The way of asking questions or communicating information can be just as different. The larger the Communication Gap, the higher the probability that sales talks will not be successful.
In every foreign market, it is therefore necessary to re-establish which questions should better not be asked in a sales talk, which should definitely be asked and how they should be asked. It is also important to learn what part of an answer is contained in the customer's spoken words and what part must be read between the lines. How much personal interest does the customer want, and where do they draw the line between pleasant small talk and pushiness?
How do I know if there is a real interest and need? Which communication channel suits the customer? And how do I have to act and communicate in order to actually build a relationship of trust?
In order to close the Communication Gap with a foreign customer, sales representatives must on the one hand know their own communication style in sales talks and on the other hand understand exactly how "differently" the foreign customer communicates. And what they need to make them feel understood. This applies to both verbal and written communication.
Once a salesperson has identified their Communication Gap with regard to a specific country or region, for example through a data-driven and visualised report, they can work specifically on closing them and will have many times more successful conversations with their customers.
Register now for a free entrepreneur workshop to learn more about the 3 Global Sales Gaps as they relate directly to your foreign markets. You will also learn about our assessment tools and the key components your sales teams can use to proactively close the Global Sales Gaps in order to sell effectively and data-driven in almost any foreign market and increase their sales quickly.