March 22, 2016

Can A Western Sales Methodology Work In Non-Western Markets?

Companies with sales teams both big and small should have a sales methodology – a system sales reps follow in order to win deals. There’s a lot of options out there. Some of the bigger, more widely used, methodologies include SPIN Selling, Bosworth’s Solution Selling, Miller-Heiman’s Conceptual Selling, or Sandler.

All of these can be great systems for sales teams and can help develop a common language for teams to communicate more effectively. But these top sales training methodologies listed above (and many others) have something in common:

They were developed in either the US or UK. This is important because they use Western approaches to solve Western sales problems.

How do they hold up in other areas of the world where cultural norms vary widely?

Here are a few examples of how sales methodologies may not be a one-size-fits-all answer to your global sales team:

POWER.

How does a culture view power relationships between individuals? In the US, a young sales person can meet with a senior executive 30 years his senior and engage in a back and forth conversation. The sales person can challenge assumptions and ask tough (but business relevant) questions to try and understand the core issues faced by the executive. Move this situation to regions where Power is viewed differently and that conversation can’t and won’t happen the same way. Hierarchy and seniority matter a lot more outside of most Western countries because the perception of power is different.

COMMUNICATION.

All of the sales systems mentioned here come from countries that value direct communication and the techniques they promote reflect this. Yet some of the faster-growing regions don’t share this style of communication and can find it offensive.

Ironically, what ends up happening is those cultures who have a more indirect style of communicating don’t speak up and ‘push back’ when their HQ in the West inserts a sales methodology that’s misaligned to their market. Instead they quietly sit through the training, wasting time and money, and don’t ever use the system. You want to know why your global training rollout didn’t stick in some countries, this could be the reason.

TIME.

Some parts of the world have less focus on punctuality and time. Many methodologies incorporate specific time components into how meetings are organized. This may be irrelevant in some places. Worse, if you train someone to use time as a tool it could end up wrecking sales opportunities.

LEARNING.

Even the approach to training and coaching varies widely between regions. Is the training interactive, 1 on 1, group based? Are you teaching your team how to do something or why they should do it? People who grow up in different parts of the world have been shown to learn differently. A standardized teaching approach may not work in every region.

Here’s the good news: some of these systems can pass these tests and be effective across the globe.

The bad news is that they all require adjustments not only to the content but the delivery and follow-up coaching.

Some questions to ask your Sales leaders:

  • Does your sales methodology adapt based on local culture? (If you or your sales trainer doesn’t have an answer for this, then you have your answer!)
  • Get specific. How is the methodology adapted? Does your sales leadership understand and agree with any adaptations?
  • Some regions may have weaker sales skills and sales cultures than others. Some may be better at hunting, other farming. Does your system account for these variations?
  • Have these cultural differences been factored into your overall sales process? Does this change how you view lead definitions and pipelines?
  • Who’s doing the training? Do your trainers understand these differences and how to adjust? Having local trainers isn’t always the answer because, based on point 1 above, if they’ve been instructed to teach a methodology in one way, they may not be adapting the lessons to suite the audience. Look for people with a proven track record of sales success.  Be picky.
  • Once you’ve figured out your methodology, how to do put an ongoing plan in place to make it stick? What’s the reinforcement strategy and who will handle the coaching? 

Global sales training solutions can seem overwhelming based on the cultural factors. But a global sales methodology CAN work if you know how to adapt and can result in millions of extra sales dollars. It takes additional effort and new ways of thinking globally to achieve great results but it can be done!

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