Keeping up with an increasingly globalized world is no easy task. With companies expanding into new markets at breakneck speed, it's more important than ever for organizations to be at the cutting edge of sales. For those who haven't yet ventured into Africa and the Middle East, here are some of the lessons we've learned from our immersion in the culture(s) of this opportunity-rich region.
Be flexible in your approach
One of the first things to integrate is that customers/prospects in this region are very relationship-oriented. They like to build relationships and tend to trust those with whom they have a good rapport. What does this mean for sales? It means that a traditional sales approach, which consists of imposing your product/service on the customer without building a relationship, is unlikely to work. Your contacts want to get to know you, they want to build a relationship with you, and they want to see how what you're selling can benefit them.
Be transparent and build trust with your audience
Your contacts (prospects and customers) are looking for transparency in their purchasing decisions, and they tend to like to see how your product/service benefits them. This is where a traditional marketing approach that focuses solely on highlighting product benefits and company strengths is unlikely to work. Your marketing message needs to be clear, easy to understand and show the customer how your product will directly help them. This is especially true in B2B sales, where it's highly unlikely that your customers will buy solely on the basis of your product's features/benefits.
Context is king: know your audience and understand the environment
When we started working on the AME (Africa & Middle East) zone, our initial objective was to research and understand the current business environment for industrial and technology companies. It's important to understand the context in which you do business. Who are your key decision-makers? What are the main issues facing them and their organization? What are their objectives, and what do they hope to achieve? What are their pain points, and how can your organization help them overcome them?
Africa & the Middle East is a complex zone that requires a flexible, transparent and contextualized approach. While many Western practices can work, they don't necessarily do so in the same way. Understanding the environment and culture will give you a good starting point for your business approach, and help you avoid some of the mistakes we made at the start of our research.
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