April 6, 2021Tech Sales
(7 minute read supporting Romanian Tech professionals succeed in the UK)
(If you enjoy this, make sure you register to our webinar on Thursday 8th of April, 19:00 CEE)
‘How to make sense of sales meetings that don’t make sense’!
This is the second of 6 articles on the subject of succeeding in the UK Tech economy. Success includes:
· Making sales of a product.
· Winning work within a UK contract.
· Creating UK partnerships that generate revenue.
· Successfully sourcing UK funding.
· Marketing your talent to a UK company.
· Connecting your innovation to the UK market.
What is in the article?
In this article Bob Spence and Valentin Maior explore together the potential ‘sales’ consequences of the cross-culture measurement: ‘Power Distance’. This exploration is within the framework of a sales meeting between a Romanian and a British professional. The material is designed to support you understand what is taking place and likely to take place during sales conversations. By understanding this you are more likely to succeed in UK business development.
Why Romanian Tech should care about the UK?
The UK Tech economy is the number one business opportunity in Europe. (A Tech professional in Cluj is ‘3 hrs’ and ‘169 RON’ from Doncaster/Sheffield airport). In this article we are referencing figures from the Tech Nation publication: Report 2021 published March 16, 2021.
The 2020 overview of the UK economy highlights extensive growth throughout the pandemic. Which means that UK business development opportunities will be available throughout 2021, 2022 and into 2023. The opportunities to subcontract, partner, collaborate, sell to and engage with the UK market is unlike anywhere else in Europe.
What you should know about the UK spend on Tech2020?
UK Tech VC investment is 3rd in the world hitting a record high of $15bn in 2020 in the face of challenging conditions. The companies that have raised this money will be looking for talent and infrastructure to scale. Although London is an excellent place to raise money it is not necessarily an excellent place to spend it.
UK Tech is more attractive to international investors than ever as 63% of investment into UK Tech came from overseas in 2020 and this is up from 50% in 2016. The UK market is truly international and international investors have to be open-minded to how their investments scale up as a consequence to the post pandemic landscape. ‘If you are not in it…you cannot win it’.
The UK Tech startup and scale-up ecosystem is valued at $585bn. This is now120% more than in 2017 and more than double the next most valuable ecosystem which is Germany valued at $291bn! If you are looking to source start-up and scale-up opportunities then the UK in 2021 has to be part of your business plan.
The UK Tech sector launched a new business every 30-minutes in 2020. Every one of these businesses is an opportunity to sell to, to partner alongside and to collaborate with. (Post the Brexit you will find that the UK Tech sector is more open than ever before to having those types of conversations).
I write from my UK base in Hull and am delighted to share:
The City of Hull in Yorkshire stands out in 2020for venture capital investment, ranking 6th in the UK with €97.8m!
‘Power Distance‘…a hypothetical example.
It is your first day in a new role, post lockdown, with a London based Tech company. Across the co-working space your new colleagues are working in silence. They are working on an existing project. You are organising your workstation and reading through the company guide lines as to what is required of you. Your new team leader aggressively walks over and begins to shout at you. The shouting is about completely judgemental remarks regarding your behaviour on this first day. They then walk away. You are left in silence; you are not able to respond and you continue to set up your workstation. No one looks up. (I have no doubt that this first day at work would never happen in Romania)!
The London example captures as an exaggerated stereotype what it would be like to work in a business environment with an exceptionally high ‘Power Distance’ culture. We are using the ‘Power Distance’ index created by the research of Prof Geert Hofstede who conducted an all-inclusive study of how certain standards and principles in the workplace can be influenced by national culture.
The concept of power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of an organisation accept and expect that the power of the organisation is distributed unequally.
In this article we place the Hofstede cross-cultural model into the context of business development behaviour between Romania and the United Kingdom.
It is worth to note that the‘Power Distance’ index below, using the model in the above link, concludes Romanian culture has a much higher ‘Power Distance’ measurement than the UK equivalent.
What might this mean within a single sales conversation?
We recommend that you take this stereotype and reflect upon how the organisational structure of a UK business might interact with its Romanian counterpart. This will have a bigger effect on your UK success than your pitch deck. What can happen during a series of meetings is that the UK business may behave as if it were a very flat organisation structure. It is not a flat structure but it may act like one. It may not be clear when the organisational hierarchy functions and when it is dormant. It is typical that this behaviour can oscillate throughout meetings which may lead to misunderstanding who is making the critical decisions.
You should expect that authority will be distributed to multiple individuals to create the final decision. The consequence is that it may not be clear exactly ‘who you are selling to’ and ‘what it is’ they are prepared to buy. When you are seeking to create a decision, it can be confusing that the most senior person involved may take what appears to be a ‘back seat’. This can be during the meeting, immediately after the meeting and during subsequent meetings. The management hierarchy of a UK business may ‘appear and disappear’ without warning.
Even where the potential exists to have a very senior person in a meeting, they may not be the senior stakeholder in terms of whether you get the agreement or not. You could expect relatively junior personnel to pose opinions that are counter to the most senior person involved.
The outcome is that the decision-making process is highly likely to be more granular than it would be compared to a local decision.
In our experience you should invest time to understand how the UK prospect is likely to make a decision. We would recommend that rather than perfect how you communicate your offer, spend time researching the background of who you are meeting. You can look at the UK resource Companies House to understand the financial performance of the company and review the website of the company to consider the culture of the business.
A proven technique is to work on how you react to initial introductions in a meeting or on the Zoom call. If you just take their job title only as their introduction that may not give you the reason they are involved.You could ask the question: ‘what is it that you are looking for from this meeting’?
Give them the opportunity to make it clear what their ‘role’ is in terms of attending the meeting. Whatever you present will need to engage with that ‘role’.
How does this impact on your ongoing sales communication?
Within a low ‘Power Distance’ UK culture the leader communicates strategic information internally to generate acceptance and engagement from their team. The people within that team will feel relatively free to question and counter the ideas from the leadership. As a consequence, if you are suggesting something that will generate change expect an extended time frame for response no matter how valid and logical your proposal.
The lead on the UK side has to source consensus.
Your sales approach will need to interact with that buying environment. Why not consider interaction with more junior people within the hierarchy to gain a clearer picture? This is so that when you present a business case you are more likely to propose something that meets the needs of the team.
Develop a UK sales approach that delivers a broader effort to create multiple stakeholders who can champion your proposal. Do not accept that the lead and most senior person will generate this. Acceptance will not automatically trickle down into the decision-making process. It is highly likely that it will be influenced later by lower members of the management hierarchy.
How can you read the progress of your sales-process?
Where ‘Power Distance’ is high the expectation is for designated leaders to provide specific direction. Where ‘Power Distance’ is low it creates the opposite effect and may lead to perceived ambiguity with regards to direction.
The consequence of this is it may appear that meetings lack focus with regards to follow through.
Build into your UK business development model actions that focus around ‘how decisions are made’ rather than ‘how needs are met’.
It is possible that your presentation meets the needs of the UK team on the call. However, if your proposal fails to engage with ‘how a decision is made’ the fact that you have met a need on its own will not generate a sale. This is a key reason why there is so much perplexation around why competitive pricing structures, high quality skill sets and relevant commercial innovations fail to make a sale in the UK although they can be a an excellent and logical match for the situation.
Understanding how a UK decision is generated within a low ‘PowerDistance’ culture is far more valuable to getting a decision than perfecting the benefit case of your proposal.
In the next article we explore the concept of ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’ within the framework of a UK business development meeting.
Who are the sources for this article?
Bob Spence is the Director of International Business Development for the Centre for Digital Innovation in the UK. He is in collaboration with Valentin Maior. Valentin is a graduate of the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. He isCo-founder and CEO of Techmatch and a firm believer in the growth of theEastern European Tech ecosystem. These 6 articles are a consequence of a series of conversations over a 2-year period exploring the potential of business development in the UK from the Romanian perspective.
If you enjoyed this, join us for our next webinar, 8th of April, 19:00 (CEE timezone)