It’s conventional wisdom that suppliers must establish value propositions based on objective criteria like quality, price, and service to win customer accounts. These factors, combined with strategic positioning and marketing, are the basis for corporate buying decisions. But companies of all sizes make culture-based decisions that have little to do with any of the above. Here are some examples:
Understanding the cultural tendencies of international customers can help market entrants predict how potential customers will view purchasing decisions and develop culture-based value propositions. My book The Culture Solution explains how to recognize cultural tendencies and offers detailed, specific strategies for selling to companies based on their profiles for eight cultural dimensions. Here are some for the examples above:
When it comes to Network-oriented customers like the Brazilian automotive company, it’s vital to take time to create a personal connection, possibly by working through mutual contacts. By developing a strong relationship over time, a new entrant can level the playing field with local competitors so that their objective value proposition will be more persuasive.
Thoroughness-oriented companies like the Italian fabric mill revere tradition and prefer incremental change over radical moves, so it’s important to promote new processes gradually and to show respect for company history and reputation. A supplier that acknowledges the importance of continuity and focuses on the long term will avoid the appearance of a hard sell and give its customers time to adjust to proposed changes.
Before approaching a Group-oriented customer like the Japanese electronics manufacturer, it’s helpful to establish credibility with other members of the system. Taking time to gather information on customer needs and meeting the requirements of the lengthy vetting process enthusiastically will help convince customers it’s worth the time and effort to confirm a new supplier.
Leveraging cultural knowledge is the quickest way for expanding companies to change their status from new kid on the block to trusted insider.