I was in Istanbul this week, speaking to nearly 250 sales and business leaders. I learned that Turkey didn't participate in the global economic crisis as they're simply growing all the time. My audience wondered how cultural differences affect our assessment findings and seemed quite satisfied with the explanation. I'll repeat it here.
If we can agree that selling is simply helping people to buy from you, regardless of industry, product, service or geography, then what exactly is different from one culture to another?
There are many cultures where you must be from "there" in order for people from "there" to buy from you. Don't believe me? Some examples of "there" exist right here in the USA! Maine, Alabama, NYC and the Midwest.
There are other cultures where you must determine which meal is most appropriate for business to be conducted - breakfast, lunch or dinner? Do you bow, kiss, shake hands or nod? How should you dress? What should you order? Is dining together a requirement? Should you accept an invitation to their home? How long should you discuss your families before it's appropriate to begin discussions about business?
Beyond the the obvious cultural differences which can be found on many websites, when it comes time to actually sell, the selling doesn't change much. That said, do the findings on our assessments change according to culture? The only thing which changes is whether a weakness has the same power to intefere with performance. For example, Need for Approval (the need to be liked) has tremendous power to hold back salespeople in North America, where 63% of all salespeople are burdoned with it. It prevents salespeople from asking a lot of questions, tough questions, pushing back and challenging their prospects. Salespeople with Need for Approval are affected throughout the sales process. By comparison, the same finding in Asia, where cultures are based on respect, have little impact on salespeople's effectiveness, even though the finding is still accurate.
The biggest issue with assessment findings and culture is with our two most important findings: Desire for Sales Success and Commitment to Sales Success (one more here). In some cultures, a much higher percentage of salespeople lack Desire and Commitment. When companies learn that their salespeople lack Desire or Commitment, they immediately want to blame culture; but that's the easy way out. It certainly might be consistent with the culture of their company, but not something the company must endure, even on the other side of the globe. Leadership must simply decide that if it wants to build a better sales culture, they better begin with Desire and Commitment becoming mandatory requirements.
Speaking of requirements, findings, sales assessments, candidates and culture, I have updated my hugely popular White Paper, The Science of Salesperson Selection. If you would like an updated copy, click here.