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The anatomy of a pre-sale meeting to the USA

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My name is Paul Karol and I work connecting Russian IT with their customers in the United States. Please find on Habr my previous article for a complete explanation of my credentials.

Today we're going to look at a presale meeting that was not successful and we will explain exactly how the Russian company lost this business. Please take a look at this photograph.

Going into this presale meeting the client (large American chain store) had worked with the software for a little more than a month and we're pretty happy with the result. From all indications they were going to buy the software this day. The sales manager had a good relationship with the American managers of the company. There was lots of buying sign that was known to the Russian company prior to this presale meeting. Suffice to say that they believe that they would have an easy sale today.

There was some very specific things that the Russians did that cost them this business.

We will be using this as a case study and we will discuss exactly everything that they did as a mistake and how to not do these same mistakes for your company.

First we must do some brain work. A thought experiment, if you will. What do you believe are the concerns of an American company doing business with Russian IT developers today. The current situation between the countries does make it more difficult but the same exact concerns are still there from before maybe slightly more amplified and there may be one more concern that wasn't there prior to the difficulties in Ukraine.

Let's list them out together.

Come on guys think, put yourselves in the minds of American managers calling on a conference call to Russian developers and what would be your concerns.

  1. Is the company a fly by night company, is the company a one‑day company?

  2. Will they be professional in supporting or developing the software that they've sold to us?

  3. Will they have proper data security? And now the two new ones that are because of the mess the world is in now...

  4. Will they be able to complete the project on time? This includes proper internet access an infrastructure to support IT.

  5. Where is your team located? Are you still located in Russia?

After understanding all these questions You can understand what exact fears and questions are in the minds of the American clients.

Next look at the photograph of the Russians at the top, well actually I've drawn it now because I wanted it to be anonymous and the Americans at the bottom. Every single fear and concern that the Americans have the Russians accidentally reinforced by their image and the way that they talked and their body language.

Number one:

A fly by night company. In Russia, a one‑day company.

Ask yourself in this image that's being presented from the Russian camera of the two Russians sitting on the couch, does this create a look like it's actually a company? Does it look like a reputable company that is on the line with the Americans? Obviously it does not for a number of different reasons. The first reason is that the background is just a plain white wall and it doesn't look like an office at all. When I worked with this company I went to their office and they had a very large conference room with their logo on the back wall perfectly painted. I said that they could put the camera at the front of this room sit at the conference table and have the logo in the background, then it looks like an office. Small details like this are how you win a sale and make your company more successful at selling than your competitors.

The next major drop of the ball is the clothing. I cannot even believe it but the man sitting in this photograph is the sales director for this company. He is right underneath the owner of the company in power. And he's wearing a hoodie. I know that IT usually dresses down but my God you can't wear a hoodie because a hoodie in the American mind is for criminals.

It's sending completely the wrong message.

And look at the dress of the female. The top pulled over to one side not even on straight sends completely the wrong message. She is the sales manager for this account.

Now let's talk about the proximity of where they are sitting, related to one another. Americans do not sit this close. There is only one instance when we sit so close together. This would be if you are girlfriend and boyfriend.

The next thing we have to talk about is grooming. I don't mean that you have to cut all your hair and become straight laced. But certainly comb the hair back behind your ears before you get on a conference call. The disheveled look of the hair goes right along with the clothes pulled to one side to create a certain visual effect. The beard is overgrown on the man and could be trimmed to look a little bit more professional, certainly considering his high level position with the company.

Ask yourself with these three elements, the proximity of the where they're sitting, the disheveled clothing, and the messed up hair, what do you think this says to the American viewer?

Obviously these two people are in a relationship. They have just finished kissing and now they're holding a business meeting. I don't know if that's actually true but for sure this is the message that's being sent by these IT professionals.

When I point this out to the company they did not know that they had made so many errors. They corrected these errors and went on to sell very well in the United States.

There are a few more points that we must discuss.

I'm going to use the American concern for elements working with a Russian company number 3 here. Will they have good quality control and safety on our data. This brings me to the next major drop of the ball that The Russian company inadvertently made.

The downcast look the sad demeanor and the looking down creates a feeling of untrustworthiness.

Difficult questions! You should do your best to anticipate any difficult questions that maybe asked of you. You should be prepared to not show too much emotion and find the way to couch the answer carefully so that you do not create negative emotions in your potential clients.

At the exact moment I took this screenshot they were asked a very difficult question about the fact that the software was not working on all platforms. In fact the Russians knew that this was a flaw in their software. They even had a workaround that was a good answer to the Americans. In the exact moment when they were asked this question they both dropped their eyes in unison and refuse to look up and meet the gaze of the Americans. There was a long awkward silence and I was expecting someone to say something as it turns out I had to try to answer the Americans myself.

“Yes I understand what you're saying. I'm sure that we can handle this ( I really did not know that there was a workaround at this time) let me get with my tech people and I will come back with you with an answer within the next 3 hours.” I said this as I met their gaze and I said it sincerely. This seemed to work and they thank me for my professionalism. However they were so many other problems with the way that the Russians presented themselves there was deep concerns about the quality of the company and the software.

In the next article I will be discussing about mitigating the damages and concerns that sanctions are causing. There are definitely ways that we can speak things to allow the American and European companies to not be so worried about working with the Russian companies.

As always if there is any questions or talking points please let's discuss in the comments. I use this example with the company's I currently work with and because of this example they are making more successful sales than before.

Paul Karol

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