April 19, 2021Tech Sales
10-minute read: How Romanian Tech can succeed in the UK
(If you enjoy this, make sure you Register to our webinar on Thursday 22nd of April, 19:00 CEE)
‘How to make sense of meetings that don’t make sense’!
This is the third of 6 articles on the subject of succeeding in the UK economy sponsored and developed by Techmatch, Cluj, Romania and C4DI, Kingston-Upon-Hull, UK. Succeeding in the UK economy can be described as:
- Making UK sales of a Romanian product.
- Winning work within a UK contract.
- Creating Romanian/UK partnerships that generate revenue.
- Successfully sourcing UK funding.
- Marketing your Romanian talent to a UK company.
- Connecting your innovation to the UK market.
Why you should care about the UK
The UK is the #1 business development opportunity in Europe. We reference figures from the widely referenced Tech Nation publication: Report 2021 published March 16, 2021.
The 2020 overview of the UK economy highlights extensive UK growth throughout the pandemic. The opportunity to subcontract, partner, collaborate, sell to and engage with the UK market has more potential than anywhere else in Europe.
What is the current UK spending potential in the Tech sector?
- UK Tech VC investment is now 3rd in the world. $15bn in 2020.
- 63% of investment into UK Tech was International in 2020.
- The UK Tech ecosystem is valued at $585bn. 120% more than in 2017.
- Germany is valued at $291bn. (Less than 50% of the UK).
- The UK Tech sector launched a new business every 30-minutes in 2020.
This is who will equip you to generate revenue from this economy
Bob Spence and Valentin Maior are the B2B specialists who will share how to succeed at business development in the UK Tech sector. These articles are a consequence of a series of conversations between Bob and Valentin over a 2-year period exploring the potential of business development in the UK from the Romanian perspective.
This is how our articles will equip you to generate revenue from this economy
We refer to the work of the cross-cultural thinker Prof Gert Hofstede. Our writing transposes the cross-cultural models of Prof Hofstede into the context of business development between the culture of Romania and that of the United Kingdom. This model around national culture can be referenced using the link below.
We will reference this model of national culture across all of our 6 articles that make up this explanation of how national cultural impacts making sales. There is a Peter Drucker quote that says:
‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.
This implies that your culture always determines success regardless of how effective your strategy may be. When Drucker said culture eats strategy for breakfast, he was pointing out the importance of the human factor in any business. No matter how detailed and solid your sales strategies and approaches are, if the people executing them do not work within the appropriate culture, your business development process will fail.
National culture, within the context of business development, is not necessarily defined by the easily recognised characteristics such as language, religion, racial identity, cultural history and tradition. (It is also not about dress codes, break out areas with bean bags and happy hours at the office).
It is about the ways your sales personnel perform in critical situations, how they manage pressure and respond to various communication challenges. Essentially how they interact with partners and customers.
The model we are working with is recognised as the ‘6D model of national culture’. This can be explained as the six basic issues that a society requires to function within itself to organise itself.
In this article we reference ‘uncertainty avoidance’. The bar chart above identifies the difference between the national cultures of Romania and the UK using this measurement. What we are going to explore in this article is to understand how this influences business development progress between a Romanian sales professional and a British procurement specialist.
What is uncertainty avoidance?
The uncertainty avoidance dimension measures the behaviour of individuals and how comfortable they are with uncertainty and the unknown within their national culture. The cultures that have a high measure of uncertainty avoidance believe and behave in a specific manner.
Generally speaking, individuals belonging to those cultures avoid unconventional ways of thinking and behaving.
So, professionals in cultures with a high uncertainty avoidance try to limit the occurrence of unknown and unusual circumstances. This means that they tend to proceed step-by-step expecting a certain response at each step. As a stereotype the Romanian professional is going to be drawn towards behaving in this manner.
To contrast this a culture with a low uncertainty avoidance will find that its members feel comfortable within unstructured situations. They are confident in changeable environments and prefer to have as few rules as possible. People in that style of national culture tend to be more pragmatic and have a higher tolerance of change. As a stereotype a professional from the United Kingdom is going to be drawn towards behaving in this manner
These are both extreme descriptions of national culture stereotypes and neither is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
There are business development consequences where these two cultures interact.
This article does not suggest either culture is superior but that they are different.
What to do?
We picked out three specific areas of business development where this has an impact on the sales success generated. These are features that drive sales success in the UK.
- Time evaluation regarding outcomes of a meeting.
- The evaluation of relationships.
- The valuation of professional positioning for a sales meeting.
Evaluation of time
Time performs differently between the extremes of high uncertainty avoidance and low uncertainty avoidance. In our combined international experiences, the immediate impact of uncertainty avoidance is that it alters the value placed on the use of time during a business meeting. As a generalism a culture that scores highly with regards to uncertainty avoidance will position their behaviour in meetings around the concept of monochromic time. This means that a culture scoring highly on uncertainty avoidance values meetings within the following context:
‘Time is money’.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You can argue logically that time does equate to money. This thinking will influence communication styles within a sales meeting. However, in terms of meetings with your UK prospect reflect that not everything you can measure has a monetary value and not everything that has a monetary value can be measured. The use of time should be considered using more than one measurement system when it involves the possibility that one of the cultures is not using time in a monochromic manner. In practice, business professionals from a national culture that has a high score within uncertainty avoidance are far more likely to set agendas for meetings and adhere to pre-set schedules.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. The concern with this approach is that it might generate a communication framework that transpires to be too rigid to interact with UK culture which has a low score with regards to uncertainty avoidance. This will generate a stereotypical preference for polychromic time This adheres to the belief in the idea:
‘Time is never wasted’.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that belief either. This manifests itself in the following UK business behaviour where there is a large amount of what appears to be inconsequential communication:
- The agenda may not be followed strictly.
- Items that were not expected to be discussed may appear.
- Items that were expected to be discussed may disappear.
- People expected to be in the meeting turn up late.
- People that are not expected to be in the meeting arrive.
- People may even join the meeting without evidence of preparation.
(Countries scoring relatively high on the uncertainty avoidance dimension, have a lower acceptance of being late at a business appointment).
This may suggest that a lack of professionalism exists from the culture that does not embrace monochromic time.
It might suggest there is no interest. This is not the case. Be aware that this can even manifest in a purchasing process where a vendor from a high uncertainty avoidance culture is precluded from being a supplier as they are seen as being too rigid! (This happened in a recent UK on-line procurement meeting that I happened to be present. The suggestion was that the non-UK supplier was unable to move away from a ‘time for money’ communication style. This was not the case. What was the case was that it was unclear to this CEE Tech business where the value was in having meetings that lacked structure). (The conundrum is this rigid framework is generally a sign of competence).
In our international experiences of business development, the ‘take out’ from this is that the sales call must have a process and a measurement system that acknowledges the root culture of the UK buyer.
The business development lead from the selling culture should rethink expectations and to consider a KPI process that is beyond a sequential order of sales steps. Those of us who are involved in business development, as a core task, are usually working within a framework as to how we interact with prospects. This framework generates a management and measurement system that will report back into our organisation. The linear approach below will be familiar to anyone that is speaking to prospects on a regular basis.
CRM systems are designed to measure a linear approach. This does not lend itself when the sales communication is between an organisation that has high uncertainty avoidance and an organisation with low uncertainty avoidance.
You may get a requirement to talk about the ‘risk/cost/worries’ of what this proposal represents before you get the opportunity to talk through your ‘credentials’. Before discussing the ‘needs’ of the prospect, they might want you to talk about your ‘approach’ in general. It can be very disruptive. It is also disruptive internally when you have to report back how the meeting went. Unless your leadership team is familiar with the challenge of monochromic time management engaging with polychromic time management it may reflect poorly on the skills of the sales professional. (I have been in this situation myself on more than one occasion).
Uncertainty avoidance is an important dimension which influences the duration of a business meeting.
It is also evident that cultures with a high score on uncertainty avoidance attach more value to ‘trust-based’ relations instead of ‘task-based’ relations.
Evaluation of relationships
Where a high score on uncertainty avoidance exists, the culture will have a preference for trust-based relationships. As a consequence, the duration of a business meeting is longer. The lower score on uncertainty avoidance generates shorter meetings. A brief meeting can create the misconception that the meeting went badly. I had an international sales meeting last week that was booked for forty-five minutes and lasted twenty minutes. I was advised informally afterwards the meeting was an outstanding success.
High uncertainty avoidance cultures try to avoid uncertain or unknown situations and have a preference for conducting business with organisations they already know or have experience with.
This will affect how you perceive the performance of a new relationship. Building up relationships with other partners in the prospect organisation will help overcome uncertainty since this helps to learn to know each other in a better way.
Societies with a low score on uncertainty avoidance are more focused on task-based relationships since the extent to which they feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations is low.
You may find that your British counterpart will make small talk but will still leave you with a feeling of distance and probably not show that much interest. This mix of conversation unrelated to business and almost an indifference to the main items of the meeting could be interpreted as disinterest or even further as arrogance. This is not the case. Most business meetings have probably two or three items that are critical and once these have been reviewed the rest of the communication is ‘filling’ time.
Countries which score higher on uncertainty avoidance and develop strong relationships to compensate and remove uncertainty will then feel able to meet in an informal setting. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic this would manifest itself by holding business conversations in more social settings.
Evaluation of professional positioning for a sales meeting
The current business environment has produced a requirement for online meetings. This is actually to the advantage of international business development. Prior to the pandemic the setting for the meeting is a major consideration. It certainly sets the scene for how serious the prospect is. We are no longer meeting in boardrooms to present but in Zoom-rooms to discuss. My experience is that to dress formally and to present formally is more likely to be successful than to have a more casual approach. Although this has been blurred as a consequence of home-based working my recommendation is still to dress to impress. Make sure any backdrop that you are using helps position you professionally at all times. Double check how your name appears when you log into whichever system that you are using. A country scoring higher on uncertainty avoidance by default will be at a disadvantage in a brand-new meeting. A brand-new meeting by its' description can be fraught with uncertainty. Try to communicate your values visually by whatever method is available to you.
This article is by no means exhaustive and is part of a larger piece of work and in the next article we explore the concept of ‘Individualism’ within the framework of a UK business development meeting.
Bob is the Director of International Business Development for C4DI, the Centre for Digital Innovation based in the UK. C4DI is part of the Barclays Eagle labs chain of 26 incubators. He writes regularly on the challenges of conducting business across culture and is the co-founder and business development lead of a Polish LawTech enterprise that conducts business in the UK. Valentin is a graduate of the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. He is Co-founder and CEO of Techmatch a B2B Outsourced Sales and Lead Generation company. Valentin is a thought leader on the subject of the growth of the Eastern European Tech ecosystem.