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I am a rough diamond gemologist, working with white, raw, uncut diamonds. I have extensive experience with major chain stores in America. The other day I was trying to think of something to write for my blog. Just then, a very dim light went on in my head. When the fog cleared, and the
darkness, that is my normal state, abated, it occurred to me that part of the problem in trying to do business in Africa and China, is that the Africans and the Chinese are befuddled by American business practices, procedures and customs. They are as confused by us, as we are with their modes of doing business. This being the case, perhaps it might be helpful to explain to those
outside the West, how major American business people operate.
A little while ago, I wrote articles on “How To Do Business In Africa", and “How To Do Business In China.” Both articles were well received, and it is my hope that my articles may have in some small way, made it easier for Americans and other Westerners to succeed in their business dealings on the Continent of Africa and in the country of China. In this article, I hope some of the experience I have had may be of benefit to those outside the West. It is my wish that this article start a dialog amongst interested business people from around the world and a greater understanding may be achieved. I would appreciate any sincere comments, suggestions, corrections, advice and criticisms that you feel may be useful and that would bring greater clarity to us all. I could also you some tips on putting; my putting is killing my golf game.
Let me begin by saying it would be wise for Africans and Chinese to free their minds of preconceived ideas of the American business person. What I do want you to think about, is the absolute fact that no one who is able to put large sums of money together to buy products from your country is an idiot. With the way business is taxed in America today, you have to be a near
genius to just stay in business. That being said, there are many astute business people who make foolish decisions.
The foolish American business person believes what you have told him, does not do his due diligence, does not hire skilled people to represent his interests, and has no idea what he is getting into. There are enough of these people available to give the impression to African and
Chinese business people that many Americans are absolute fools. However, although these people may give you a quick and sometimes large financial benefit, they are not real customers. They are going to lose their money and will cease to be anyone’s customer. Of course, some sellers are happy to make a quick, dishonest buck and will be more than glad to locate this kind of clientele. If you are a vendor, and this describes your mentality, you have no need to read
further. For those of you with greater vision and a wish for a slow dollar rather than a fast nickel, I would suggest a different approach. The true American business person is a person of high, honor and integrity. Although aggressive, tough and sometimes ruthless, he realizes through experience and example, that unless everyone involved in a deal makes money, the business will not be long lasting. Most of these American business people leave enough on the table to make you want to come back for more. Some cultures see this as weakness. They believe they have to squeeze every penny out of a deal. There is a lot to be said for this method if you have a product or service that is difficult to acquire. However, if you are in a competitive environment, leaving the American customer little room to make money will surely drive him into the hands of your competitors. If an American business person feels he is being treated fairly and is shown proper respect, price alone will often not be reason enough to make him switch vendors. This is the first lesson in dealing with
Americans. To reiterate, you don’t have to be the cheapest in the market to get his business, but it would be foolish to say it does not help!
When you approach Americans to buy your products and or services, you have to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If he is a powerful buyer, with deep pockets, well experienced and sought after, you will have to give him a very good reason to let you become one of his vendors. And once again, price alone will most often not be enough. Remember, he already has many vendors begging for his business and they are selling to him as cheaply as they possibly can because they know you are out there waiting to take their place.
The second thing you must remember is nearly all major buyers know their power and often have egos to match. Haughtiness, arrogance and an overly aggressive attitude will not impress them.
They know you want them, just as a beautiful woman knows she has her choice when it comes to suitors. Like a very beautiful woman, the buyer is not easily impressed and has enough experience to see through most bull thrown their way. After all, major buyers only become major buyers if they have a ton of experience and have a proven track record. There is only one way to impress a big buyer…
Do you really believe there is only one way to impress a big buyer? If you believe there is only one way to impress a buyer, you are not worthy to be his vendor and you should concentrate on your local market. And this is the second lesson in dealing with Americans; you have to find a way to get the attention of the buyer. You must ask yourself honestly; do I have an idea that will get me past the “gate keepers” and secure an appointment with the buyer? If you cannot come up with a method to get an appointment, how do you expect to ever impress the buyer?
Again put yourself in the place of the buyer. He has people calling every day to ask for an appointment. If he said yes to everyone, he would never have time to do his job. Because of this, buyers have gate keepers who screen his calls. If you can get past the gate keeper, you have a shot. Fail and you will never get on the dance floor. Ask yourself this question; “If I were the buyer, why would I talk to someone like you?” If you are honest, you will most likely not have a good enough answer.
At this point, you are asking yourself: What does it take to reach a buyer and actually make a sale? Some will tell you that you will have to spend a great deal of time, money and effort
to create positive contacts and impressions. Others will tell you, only persistence and luck will get you in. Although there is some truth to this, mostly your efforts will be wasted and for naught. Because you and I are such close friends, and because you are still reading this article, I will tell you the big secret to selling major buyers. Ready? Here it is. Assuming you have a quality product at a competitive price with competitive terms, the easiest and fastest way to become a vendor to a major buyer is to hire a man or woman who already has a relationship with the buyer. Yeah, it really is that simple. It is all about relationships. That is lesson number three. If the salesman and the buyer have already worked together, then he already has the buyer’s direct number. The buyer will almost always agree to view a new line the rep is carrying if the rep has been a good vendor in the past. Now, that was not painful, was it? Find a sales man/woman who is already selling the majors and you will soon find yourself as a vendor to the major companies. Just one thing, this sales person is most likely making a damn good living. Don’t be cheap! If you want this caliber of sales person, you are going to have to give him a reason to leave his high paying job. For a sales man, there really is only one reason.
As a footnote: Once you are a vendor, if you want to stay a vendor, never ever break a promise. Always give and do more than you promise. With integrity, honestly and sincerity you will build a strong relationship and will enjoy a long and profitable business. My last lesson I shall give is important. Lesson number four: Many large companies donate to charity, some out of compassion, and others, to maintain a reputation as a company with a heart. When the buyer sks, and they do ask, for you to donate, do not hesitate. A donation to their charity is a cheap way to strengthen and maintain the relationship. Not donating will never cause them to drop you as a vendor… Please, have you not learned anything about Americans ?