American companies are aggressive—sometimes too aggressive. Meetings are often brief, to the point, and focused on a particular problem or agenda item.
While this approach may work well back at home, we’ve found that it is not the way to do business when you go abroad. In places like China and Eastern Europe, expect several dinner meetings before you even begin to start talking about business. People there want to know about you, your family, and your business. They are evaluating you, just as much as your product, to see how trustworthy you are.
Expect sales cycles that are about 50% to 100% longer than what Western companies are accustomed to. I’ve seen many American companies fall short of their goals because they get disgruntled by the time and money they are putting into making a deal and end up dropping out of the process altogether. Take your time and be patient!
The most important thing to remember is that each country is different. Don’t go abroad looking for a one-and-done or a quick sell—it’s all about developing long-term relationships. If you stay open-minded, patient, and flexible, you won’t be labeled the "ugly Westerner" but the successful one!
Xavier Herve President Mechtronix Systems Montreal