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Selling in Asia

If you sell all over the world, how you "show up" to your prospects and clients in sales and relationship management meetings is a pretty significant contributor to the overall success of your meeting.

Often, success in these situations has as much to do with what you say and how you present your product.

The following has been my experience working in English-speaking, Western contexts and across Asia (Hong Kong, Mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia).

Note: I speak as someone who has lived a big chunk of his life in Canada and a big chunk in Asia (primarily Hong Kong).

Here's a few observations from my time in Asia:

Names: Use of honorifics such as Mr or Ms unless given permission to use their first name.

Body language: Body language that is socially accepted in one part of the world may be considered overly emotive (and inappropriate in a professional setting) in another. I will usually use more restrained, controlled body language in Asia.

If I am an "outsider" where I also don't speak the local language (ie. when I visit South Korea or Thailand), I am even more conscious of not committing an unintentional social faux pas and will err even moreso on the side of conservative body language.

In-person meetings: I will always accept business cards with both hands and then study it for a moment or two. When we are seated at the table, I never pocket the cards and instead place them face-up on the table for the duration of the meeting. For meetings with multiple people I go the additional step of arranging all cards side-by-side horizontally to sidestep any issues around "Richmond put my business card under another belonging to someone more junior than me"

Tonality: Similar to body language, I'm very sensitive to who's who in the hierarchy and will adjust my tonality to match. A big danger is coming off as overly familiar, particularly to more senior clients and prospects. I make it a point to remind them through tonality that I'm the supplicant (not really true, but I knowingly play the part for the purposes of getting the sale or contract renewal)


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