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I can't even count the number of times I have walked into the office
of an international marketing department or a translation company to
find a copy of Terri Morrison's book, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands
sitting on an executive's bookshelf. It's a classic guide for global
business people, and really, for anyone working across borders. So, I
was delighted to learn about Morrison's new book, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: Sales and Marketing.
This newly released book follows a similar format as the classic
version, but focuses exclusively on providing tips in the areas of
selling and marketing in 20 different countries. I had a chance to ask
Morrison questions about her latest book. Her answers are in the
interview that follows.
Nataly Kelly: The book addresses many different cultures. Did you have a
particular culture in mind as your target audience when writing it?
Terri Morrison: I tried not to be U.S.-centric in this book. Hopefully,
we achieved this, because several foreign rights contracts were picked
up almost immediately. I believe that a Mandarin version will be
released soon. The target audience is global, and that is one of the
reasons we included the U.S. in there - so that other cultures might
gain some insight into our multi-ethnic country as well.
How did you carry out the research on so many countries for this book?
It took two years of interviews, visits, and research to compile the
data on the 20 countries. Granted, we do have some pretty good
connections -- my firm has been in business since 1990, and this is my
Which countries are the hardest to sell into?
I believe that good salespeople can be successful anywhere. But some
countries may require more intercultural skills than others, as well as
more support from headquarters. For example, if you are selling into a
culture where bribery and corruption is relatively commonplace, you
should know how to handle that. I advise clients to look at www.transparency.org
to obtain that type of data. Similarly, some cultures may have
traditions and belief systems that are far different from your own
background. Your personal values and ethnicity may make it easy for you
to sell into certain cultures -- or require you to adapt profoundly to
completely different behaviors, languages and beliefs.
Are some countries more receptive to things like "cold calling" than others?
We're probably the most amenable country for "cold calling." The
United States is an egalitarian culture, and theoretically, everyone has
an equivalent chance to connect with anyone else. This concept of
"admission" is actually one of the sales tips in the U.S. chapter. In
contrast, "cold callers" are not common in places like Japan, South
Korea, or even Germany. Introductions are vital -- even if it's via
email, or a brief meeting at a huge trade show.
You mention working with interpreters and translators in the
book, recommending, for example, that people translate their business
card into the language of the host country in some cases. What other
tips do you have for businesspeople regarding interpreting and
Businesspeople underestimate everything about the profession - the
complexity, background requirements, and cognitive demands. There are
many bad brands and translation blunders that have occurred because of
clients cutting corners and simply having a lack of knowledge about the
job qualifications. Never underestimate the value of clean global
communications. I advise clients to send all jargon, contract
requirements, marketing collateral, etc. weeks ahead of time. I suggest
they set up a virtual meeting as soon as those materials arrive, and
review everything with the translators. Details are important. I also
suggest they hire two interpreters for on-site negotiations -- so that
they can spot each other every two hours. Senior interpreters expend the
same amount of energy as do master chess players. They literally lose
weight from the cognitive drain, and after several hours of contract
negotiations, they need a break. Words carry enormous weight in every
language, and it's worth paying for the best.
Which cultures do you think have the hardest time understanding each other in business settings?
Tough question. You can hit a roadblock or reach a détente in any
culture -- depending upon the topic. I'm writing a script right now for
the American Bar Associations' Section of International Law which
demonstrates the cultural differences between a female Manhattan
attorney and her South American oil and gas industry contacts. There is
such diversity throughout the United States (as evidenced in demographic
data and birth statistics), in our own families and workplaces, it
behooves us all to stand back and appreciate that there is no one
correct approach to business. That said, there can be a rather
substantial cultural gap between female executives from New Zealand and
observant Muslim businessmen from the Wahabi branch of Sunni Islam in
Saudi Arabia. But that does not mean that they cannot get along. That
just means that they have to think it through and appreciate each
others' cultural values.
What cultural factor do people in other parts of the world have the hardest time understanding about American business culture?
Our individualism, our concept of "time equals money," our viewpoints
on litigation, our desire for "the truth," how loud we are, how large
we are...I cannot pick one!
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