Vantage Point has been delivering sales management training overseas right from its inception. These days, approximately 50% of our business comes from large corporate clients based overseas. Our U.S.-based staff and a growing cadre of international facilitators have recently presented programs in 7 languages, in 15 countries, in places as far afield as China, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
Along the way, we’ve learned a few things as we delivered these public and private workshops as well as more complicated customized sales management workshops. Some of our key insights are listed below.
1. International companies are ahead of their U.S. counterparts
Interestingly, international companies are ahead of the curve in embracing the idea that sales managers are pivotal to the sales success of a company. Impetus for sales manager training comes principally from sales executives, which is important, given that our training programs require a degree of change management.
2. Believe it or not, language is not a barrier
Of course, we provide foreign language trainers. When we teach in English we will sometimes have a translator in the room. Interestingly, we find that global sales managers and second line executives all speak English very well. If we were trainers of front-line salespeople, the language barrier would possibly be a greater challenge; however English-speakers are very prevalent in the sales management ranks.
3. Identify cultural differences before you hit the road
The principal difference we’ve noted is in the length of the work day – internationally, we start later, take longer lunch breaks, and finish earlier than we do in the U.S. We also find that audiences are more disciplined and respectful than U.S. audiences: people turn off their phones and leave them off! Certain nationalities are very process oriented, other cultures more laissez-faire. Sometimes clients are interested in vetting a training facilitator in order to make sure there is a cultural fit. In these cases, we use people who are based in their countries, but we also have our U.S.-based team travel internationally. They really are pros at what they do. We’ve also found that gender issues have been non-existent, but we have noticed that there are few women sales managers and second line managers around the globe.
4. Prepare, prepare, prepare
In addition to everything else, we always make sure that our client’s executive leadership has an introductory call with our facilitators prior to the training so that the facilitator is fully prepared. For example, we’d want to know about reorganizations, or layoffs, or similar issues to help us understand the company context for scenarios and role playing. Also, face-to-face relationships are more important internationally, so we don’t do design workshops virtually as we do at home. It’s also vital to remember to allow for extra time for things like customs and printing and shipping overseas.
5. Take one bite at a time
We frequently pilot sales coaching programs for international companies and then roll out one region at a time. Modifications are made following initial rollouts. This gives everyone a chance to re-asses and made changes if needed. While most of our clients engage us to help gain greater standardization in their sales management practices across a global footprint, we typically do additional customization to reflect local or regional differences. Everyone is a winner.
International sales management training is a big part of what we do. It has its unique challenges, but these are easily overcome with good planning and forethought, and the results are enormously rewarding both for us and our clients.
Next month: Vantage Point’s Facilitators chime in: “Observations and Tips from our International Trainers.”