In the global marketplace, certified sales professionalshave the opportunity to expand their reach and tap into new markets. However, successfully developing international businesses requires more than just a strong product or service.
It also requires a deep understanding of the local culture and the ability to navigate cross-cultural differences. This is where cross-cultural intelligence comes into play and can reflect your team’s understanding of various cultures and beliefs.
Cross-cultural intelligence refers to the ability to understand, appreciate, and effectively navigate cultural differences. This skill is crucial in developing international business relationships as it enables individuals to build trust, establish rapport, and work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds.
By understanding your clients and their cultural backgrounds, you can build better working relationships with them based on the norms and values they believe in. Several reliable sources have studied the impact of cross-cultural intelligence on international customer success.
Here are a few key findings
- Increased effectiveness in cross-cultural communication
According to a study published in the Journal of World Business, individuals with high levels of cross-cultural intelligence are more effective in communication of such nature and are better able to navigate cultural differences.
- Improved business relationships
A recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that individuals with high levels of cross-cultural intelligence are better able to build trust and establish rapport with people from different cultural backgrounds. This can lead to improved business relationships and strong bonds on a more personal level.
- Improved decision-making
An in-depth survey by the Harvard Business Review found that individuals with high levels of cross-cultural intelligence are better able to consider multiple perspectives and make more informed decisions when working in a culturally diverse environment.
- Increased innovation
The International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management found that cross-cultural intelligence can lead to increased innovation as individuals are better able to understand and appreciate cultural differences, leading to new and creative solutions.
There’s more than just good customer relationships
All these studies and research papers indicate that having a good awareness of various cultures can go a long way. It can facilitate better relationships with your clients and also improve empathy and awareness within the team. How your team handles their clients will directly impact how they treat each other.
Perhaps you have members in your team who hail from different cultural backgrounds and beliefs. While researching how to respect your clients, your team will also have a chance to speak to each other. The best research is done through direct communication and this will help strengthen your core team.
Some examples of cultural differences across geographies:
In many Asian cultures, hierarchy, and respect for authority are highly valued. This means that decisions are often made by those in positions of power and there may be less emphasis on individual initiative.
“I was visiting a client in Asia for the first time and didn’t know what to expect. One of my colleagues was Asian and I decided to ask her. She told me — Don’t try to dominate the meeting and act smarter than the other people in the room. This sounded confusing at the moment as how else could I prove how experienced and eager the business was? But it was useful owing to humility and Asian cultures I later learned,” said a sales professionalfrom Turkey.
- Latin America
In many Latin American cultures, relationships are highly valued, and building personal connections is an important aspect of a business. Maintaining a good personal relationship is often seen as more important than the specific details of a business agreement.
In many European cultures, there is a strong emphasis on punctuality and keeping appointments. Being late is seen as a sign of disrespect and can negatively impact business relationships.
“The prime reason I failed to close the deal with a European client was due to my tardiness! I had overslept due to jetlag after my flight and arrived just FIVE minutes late to the meeting. The client asked me if he was to expect all our deadlines to be late and I knew I had blown my chances right there,” said a certified sales professionalfrom Nepal.
In many African cultures, collective decision-making is highly valued and consensus is often sought before making decisions. This can result in delayed decision-making processes. Furthermore, it could also lead to stronger commitment and buy-in once decisions are made.
- Middle East
In many Middle Eastern cultures, hospitality and generosity are highly valued. These practices are considered as important as the deal and its outcome. It is common for business meetings to involve extensive socializing and gift-giving.
“My colleague once told me how she arrived at a meeting with a Middle Eastern client without a token of appreciation. The client gave her a large bouquet and a memento which was a figurine of their land’s architecture. My colleague was sad to not have a return gift and further dejected when she realized the client was expecting it from her!” said a marketing manager from India.
Note: It is important to keep in mind that cultural differences can vary widely even within a single country. By developing cross-cultural intelligence, you can navigate these differences and build relationships with partners from around the world.
How can you incorporate these values into your business?
Here are some key steps you can take to develop cross-cultural intelligence and succeed in international business:
- Seek out cultural training and education
Invest in cultural training and education to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural norms, values, and beliefs of the people in your target market. This can be done through workshops, online courses, and cultural immersion programs.
- Practice active listening
When communicating with people from different cultures, it is important to listen actively and ask questions. This helps to build rapport, understand their perspective, and avoid misunderstandings.
- Be flexible and adaptable
Cross-cultural communication often requires being flexible and adaptable to effectively navigate cultural differences. This may mean adjusting your communication style, adjusting your expectations, and being open-minded.
- Show respect
Respect is a universal language and goes a long way in building relationships with people from different cultures. Show respect for their culture, traditions, and beliefs by being aware of cultural norms and avoiding stereotypes.
- Be mindful of non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language, can have different meanings in different cultures. Be mindful of these differences and adjust your non-verbal communication accordingly.
What’s the next step?
By incorporating cross-cultural intelligence into your international business strategy, you will be able to build strong and effective relationships with people from different cultures.
This, in turn, will help account managers expand their businesses and succeed in the global marketplace as educated sales professionals. Developing cross-cultural intelligence is the key to customer success in international businesses.
To understand cross-cultural intelligence better and boost your business, contact us.