What should Romanian sales professionals know in order to succeed in the UK


What should Romanian sales professionals know in order to succeed in the UK

Reading time: aprox 10 minutes

‘How to make sense of meetings that don’t make sense’! 

The overarching problem starts around the subject of expectation. When we meet a new connection, we search for the ‘common’ ground. That is normal and does make sense within any context. So as a Romanian when you meet a British professional your antennae is tuned to; ‘where is our common ground’? (It is working both ways I can assure you). 

Writing as a South African educated sales professional it can be slightly complicated to establish if the common ground is actually ‘common’. Let me explain to illustrate the point. Historically South Africa has been a British colony. You would presume that this would make it very straight forward to communicate accurately with someone from the UK? We are native speakers of English and in terms of small talk we have the rivalry around the British Empire sports of ‘cricket’ and ‘rugby’. There are also common themes in our behaviour to an extent. However, the cultures are not the perfect match that you may presume even when so much of the cultural DNA is so similar. 

In this article I will refer to the work of the cross-cultural thinker Gert Hofstede. I transpose the cross-cultural models of Prof Hofstede into the context of business development between the cultures of Romania and that of the United Kingdom. 


We will reference this across these six articles that make up this explanation of cultural difference in sales and the model 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. 

This is just one model of this complex cross-cultural topic but it is the reference point for these articles. Now let me start off exploring this complicated and sometimes sensitive subject by using this cross-cultural comparison to compare South Africa to the UK. Although there appears to be similarities using these ‘6D’ measurements as you can see below there are also discrepancies. In terms of building trust, which is the foundation of business development, these discrepancies will actually hinder that process considerably. The screenshot below will not make deep sense without a clear explanation but I wanted to illustrate that even a culture as close as South Africa is to the UK will have major differences when we apply these two cultures to the ‘6D’ matrix. 

In this comparison you can see that individualism is the biggest difference.

This concept of cross-cultural measurement stresses individual goals and the rights of the individual person. Collectivism focuses on group goals, what is best for the collective group, and personal relationships: 

o An individualist is motivated by personal rewards and benefits. 

o The collectivist is motivated by group goals. 

What does this mean in terms of making sales? 

Well generally a South African is more about the team than his British counterpart. They are more likely to buy into the impact of actions on team members and look for who else can they involve whether they are buying or selling. They will probably require group input and also a group decision. It is a consideration this impacts on the buying cycle or the selling cycle as it will more likely be longer. The Brit is more likely to have a focus on the impact to them and is less likely to be a team player in business development. They are possibly more likely to take responsibility for the decision and want to own the relationships that the decision requires. (That gives you a flavour but it is a deeper than that). However, as this article is about the success of Romanian business, I will revert back to that. 

Has this ever happened to you? 

'You held an initial business development meeting with a senior person in a British company'. 

Without doubt you know that you were a relevant consideration for the situation. Your price point was competitive, your offer was fit for their purpose, your track record was consistent with the needs discussed and your terms and conditions were a commercial match for the requirement …yet...you failed to win the business and you probably don’t quite know why. 

I speculate you are: 

  • Experienced in sales. 
  • Well trained by your company. 
  • Skilled in the professional use of the English language and idiom. 
  • Conversant with US training material on developing relationships and closing sales. 

Your company in Romania may also have hired sales training from a leading local source to support and develop your selling skill set. You may even have completed one of the top branded US sales-training programmes. 

On paper this was an opportunity for both sides to engage and the method to do so was there as well. 

What is even more confusing is that initially it felt right. The meeting felt right. That can be one of the biggest disappointments in business development. 

Your initial impression was that the personal chemistry existed to get along with the person you were dealing with. 

Sometimes this is referred to as rapport. Some people refer to as empathy. Essentially the capacity to understand another person within their frame of reference. 


This is vital condition when we are looking to develop relationships and within business development if you cannot develop relationships you are unlikely to develop your business. I will transpose the models of Prof Hofstede into the context of making sales between the cultures of Romania and the United Kingdom. This exploration in terms of business development will not suggest one culture is right or wrong or one is better or worse but recognises there can be differences and we need to consider how those differences impact on business development.

The potential cultural differences between Romania and the United Kingdom using the ‘6D’ model look like this: 

You can see there are differences which we will examine. However, you can also see there is one where the difference is negligible. This is a concept referred to as ‘long-term orientation’. The fact that we search for common ground means that we find that ground before we recognise the differences. It is why the English-speaking world are often surprised at how little they share but language. 

‘The English and Americans are two peoples divided by a common language’.  - George Bernard Shaw 

The cultural description is that countries with a long-term orientation will tend to be more pragmatic modest and thrifty. In short-term oriented countries people tend to place more emphasis on principles, consistency and the truth. That is typically religious and nationalistic. So, in terms of long-term orientation what you will tend to find is that people behave in a modest way. They will avoid talking too much about themselves and generally are more willing to compromise. 

Let us look at the concept of long-term orientation. If we look at this, we can see that the difference between Romania in the United Kingdom is negligible it is practically the same. 

‘This immediately gives an impression of common ground’. 

Romanians and the British are midway. This is a position that is neither one nor the other. It means that initial introductions create the initial impression that the two business cultures maybe similar also. This it is not so helpful because it means that both parties would draw the same conclusion very early that doing business, if it is possible, maybe straight forward. As we examined the other features of the comparison we will discover and illustrate where the bumps in the road may exist. Everyone involved in the business development cycle wants to believe in the possibility that a transaction is possible. 

  • The agent on the ground. 
  • The report sent to the direct line manager. 
  • The impression given to the Sales Director. 
  • The information that is then sent to the Managing Director. 
  • The feedback to the shareholders. 

Everyone wants to believe it is possible. In a first meeting where orientation appears to be so similar it could accidentally set the tone of expectation to be a lot higher than it should be. 

In the next article I will explore the concept of ‘Power Distance within the framework of a business development meeting.


Bob Spence is the Director of International Business Development for C4DI the Centre for Digital Innovation Kingston upon Hull UK. C4DI is part of the Barclays Bank Eagle-Lab Tech network. Together with Kasia Lanucha of Speak Culture he recently delivered 12 sessions of 45-minute workshops for the UK Department of International Trade on the topic of business development through the webcam. Bob consults with Kasia Lanucha who is a Cambridge University lecturer specialising in communications and cross-cultural differences. He writes business development material with Kaja Szczygiel previously of the British Embassy Warsaw and currently with the US Embassy Warsaw who specialises in international business development. 

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