You may be debating whether or not to conduct business in China. Or perhaps your company has already entered the market in Asia and finding it to be a difficult path.
There’s no doubt that China presents a huge opportunity through its growing class of consumers that are hungry for new products. But can you frame your selling propositions the same way you would for a North American sale? What changes would you need to make?
In the recent Harvard Business Review post, “When Best Practices Don’t Travel,” Michael Zakkour and Andy Molinsky offer advice on what exactly you should do—and more importantly should not do—to successfully sell to customers in China.
Zakkour, a principal at Tompkins International, and Molinksy paint a story of a businessman who fails at a presentation to Chinese customers because he doesn’t fully understand cultural differences and expectations. (So his name might be fictional, but I’d bet all of us have been in that man’s shoes at one time or another).
Don’t make the same mistake. Consider these important steps to make sure your cultural business transition is a smooth one:
- Seek and accept help. Find a “cultural connector”—someone who has the skills to create a successful plan and can offer cultural insight to determine what you need to adjust.
- Evaluate whether a culture’s existing best practices need a tweak or a major reframe. Tweaks require little effort but usually only skim the surface of deeper challenges that you may face. In most cases, you need to completely reframe your plan.
- Be exclusive. To interest people in China, let them feel they have been singled out for an exclusive opportunity of status. This is especially important in China’s strong hierarchical society.
- Take time to invest in personal relationships. In China, your business case must come from a trusted, credible source. Connections are crucial and can help legitimize your business.
If you’re interested in learning more about doing business in China, pick up a copy of Caught Between the Tiger and the Dragon, an entertaining book about one company leader’s rocky navigation through today’s global business environment. Available in hard copy and e-book format, the book will help you better understand the realities of the business culture in China.
You can view the original post on the Tompkins blog here.