Archive for October 29th, 2012

Selling in China. They sell value. Part 1 of 2

Sacred to the heart of Chinese culture

Selling in China.  They sell value. Part 1 of 2.

I just returned from a 14 day trip to Southeastern China and Hong Kong ( When you go, Oct  is best) .  I reviewed several instances of Chinese salespeople interacting with expatriate Chinese.  Some of my sales beliefs were reinforced  as I observed how the Chinese sales person sells on value.

It is all to easy for Westerners to think that the Asian sales technique is about the price.  Price has a place but it is not the first thing that is raised. In China I saw similarities to sales techniques I needed with Japanese firms.

Successful sales people in China ( and this is for bigger ticket items, not the universal barker stall tactics) spend upfront time on building relationships with a subtle twist to the  Western approach. I saw the process had three parts:

  1. Introduction of salesperson, the story  why this salesperson can be trusted and the building of common ground.
  2. Why the product and company can be trusted, the value of the product
  3. The special deal that is extended ( to head off negotiation)

Part 1. Introduction, personal trust building and building common ground

This is where the Chinese way differs most from Western style. This preamble can take much more time then Westerners are used to.   I saw this manifest in several forms. The expected form is that the “salesperson” introduced themselves immediately on meeting the client – such as I am such and such from this province. You may call me Ben ( e.g) .  My family does this and this and I went to school here and here and did such and such with my time up to now.  When this step is delayed, the client feels agitated.

One trust building approach in particular was very effective. A young lady introduced  herself as having been selected for Chinese opera school. She had to interrupt her studies  when her parents became ill. She nursed them and in return, her father gifted her with two houses and lots of money (The Chinese have a very healthy attitude to money and business).  This story went over very well as filial loyalty ranks so high in this culture. (common beliefs)  Further, to be in opera school is a big deal (speaking to high personal capability and sacrifice)   and to give it up was a mark  of great respect to parents.  After dinner this person sang a song that was very well received.  (Singing songs is also a big deal in building friendship/respect. As a further note her training gave her tremendous powers of content retention and a voice that was very persuasive.

A second technique  was shown by a young man who said he was the fourth son of the owner of a business. He was the sales trainer .  He started asking the prospects where they had been in China and what they had seen so far. He suggested that the true China was found by visiting the rural districts and not the big cities. He went on to list some of the big problems facing China ( large scale corruption and the gross nepotism of the ruling elite wrto who gets the big money jobs and opportunities). His frankness opened up a serious discussion between himself and the prospects were  he was recognized as a straight shooter who could give a frank opinions on business in China. After about 25 minutes, this lead to very high value business discussions between the parties as the clients sought ways to do business with this individual.

If a craftsman is involved in the process, client buying resistance seems to be superseded by the demonstration of capability, hours dedication to perfection  and the humbleness of the craftsman. The chance to interact with a craftsman brings the client closer to the source of the product  increasing trust and adds a desire to reward vs negotiate for the product.

On the other side of the table, if the client ever demonstrates that they are not that interested in what the salesperson has to say – the salesperson loses face. This is sign of great disrespect and could easily befall the Western buyer who wants to “cut to the chase”.  (If you are not interested in what I have to say, then I feel less inclined to deal with you.)

The personal trust building step took more time than one would usually see in Western cultures and may give us a clue where Western firms that try to move too quickly to the business discussion get themselves off on the wrong foot. We know that if you skip all the “value building’ steps, then the only discussion is about price.

Also we know that the sale is first made by emotion and logic is used to justify it.  Westerners can not ignore how the Eastern business person views the emotional side of doing  business with them.