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Cultural Difference = Competitive Advantage?

Yes, I think so.

Several very unusual things happened during the day and half Sales Excellence Council kickoff meeting that concluded this past Friday.  Actually it was the same phenomenon repeated six times.

We were scheduled to begin at 8:30 Thursday morning, and as is my habit with a new client and/or an unfamiliar meeting room, I showed up 60 minutes before that.  I figure, hey, they’re paying me good money, so I better have my act together coming right out of the chute.

By 7:55, the PC, projector, flip charts, tables, etc., etc. were all set and ready to go.  At that point, I poured myself a cup of coffee and turned to mingle with the early birds.  Oddly enough, not a single person was milling around in “chat” mode.  The entire group was present, seated and looking at me.

Being the quick-witted, articulate professional I am, I said, “Ummmm…   Ahhhhhh… since we’re all here, should we just get started?”  That’s when the entire group gave me a “what else other than start could you possibly suggest we do?” look. In my 34 year career, this was a first; a sales education meeting that started 33 minutes early!

The next shocker came at 9:35.  I suggested a quick 5 minute break at 9:30 and then had to scramble to restart the meeting.  Seven sales reps heard “five minute break” and were actually seated, ready to go 5 minutes later!!!

Then lunch in the company cafeteria.  Chicken, rice, beans, nopal (cactus leaves with tomato sauce and cheese) and a Coke in a returnable glass bottle.  The plan was to restart at 2:00, and we restarted promptly at 2:00.  And so on…  You get the picture.

In every way other way promptness, focus and country of origin, these were typical of sales professionals I’ve worked with.  Smart, confident, articulate (in English and Spanish, although being a mono-lingual, ugly American, I’m only assuming the Spanish part), ready, willing & able to challenge the out-of-town “expert.”  We learned from each other, earned each others’ respect and established the basis for a mutually beneficial business relationship and personal friendship.  Oh, lest I forget; after a day and half, we were well into “Sales Excellence Council Day 3 Afternoon” material when we wound things up.

My conclusion: Talking about the competitive threat posed by cheap manufacturing labor in China and other third world countries is a waste of time and a lame excuse for lack of sales growth.  Look in the mirror, Sales Rep, Sales Manager and Sales Executive.  Start worrying about your ability to compete with the seriously serious work ethic of your sales pro counterparts from our Mexican neighbor.

Think About It…

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