It’s unusual to write a global business column, which is published for a largely American audience, about how to sell into the United States. However, many businesses are advising foreign firms about what’s needed to successfully sell into the United States and how decisions are made here.
Also, showing the idiosyncrasies of the U.S. market makes U.S. firms more aware about how to sell abroad.
Some U.S. business characteristics:
• Time is money — The idea of spending time, wasting time, borrowing time, buying and selling time is uniquely American. Foreign firms often get frustrated when they experience U.S. firms in a great rush and when inadequate (by their standards) time is budgeted for appointments.
• Information is a corporate asset — A Japanese business executive may get very confused when told to enter his personal customer information into a CRM program controlled by some chief technical officer he’s never met. Asians may not want to share all of their sales proposals and cost figures on a blog or a Google document.
U.S. firms feel that information belongs to the company. U.S. firms selling abroad often try to write “audit” privileges into (e.g.) a European distributor contract.
• Business is business — In most countries, “business is personal.” The “let’s get down to business” attitude of many U.S. firms can put off Asians and Europeans.
Americans spend little time on relationship building, even though an American executive may feel she’s asked the requisite questions, such as, “Are you married, do you have any children, where do you live?”
• American marketing savvy — The United States sees itself as the world’s greatest marketer. No country has the global brands of the United States. Starbucks, Coca Cola, McDonalds, YouTube, iTunes and Facebook are all American phenomena. We may not brag about the highest-quality products, but we do brag about how well we market them. Foreign firms that aren’t sensitive to this will be seen as inferior.
Using the Market Entry Toolkit will help overseas firms examine some of these issues