People battling on the front lines of the sales industry know that sales has undergone a seismic transformation during the last 20 years. I recall the times when the industry emphasised the effective presentation of products – aka ‘The push’ – before the trend emerged for sales businesses to become more consultative or solution-based. What’s the current state-of-play within the sales industry – and how do developments pertain specifically to Singapore?
Understand your location
Within Asia, Singapore is more open than many other regional cities – so doing business here is a different experience to Hanoi, Seoul, Phnom Penh or so on. There's no doubt that Singapore’s both different and atypical of its regional neighbours. You've really got be ‘on the ground’ to understand the intricacies of Asian culture; Australian, British, and (particularly) American expats coming in to Asia from offshore often don’t understand the culture – and get it very wrong.
Be culturally sensitive
The right approach for foreigners in Singapore is to be sensitive to, and respectful of, the cultural differences. I recall an American company who, for years, ran their standard US-centric programme in Asia, which wasn't culturally sensitive. They challenged their customers thinking to a degree that could almost be seen as aggressive. Those who’ve spent time in Singapore (or Asia generally) appreciate the value of ‘losing face’ here – and how that can impact on business relationships. So their approach didn't take off, because people interpreted it as being almost confrontationally rude.
Localise your strategy
I’ve run a number of workshops with clients around what we call an insight-led approach. In terms of doing business in Singapore this means adapting your traditional style to your locality. In many cases this has meant changing the way information is delivered, to really adds value to the customer's thinking rather than challenge the way they're conducting their business.
Understand the hierarchy – and work harder to break into it
One thing that's common across Asia is business is very hierarchical. Getting interpersonal contact with senior people here is a lot more difficult. In my first week in Australia, I was getting facetime with managing directors, in one case, the managing partner of one of the country’s biggest accounting firms – and a lot of the intellectual collateral I’ve developed came from my interaction with those people, considerably improving my business prospects. That wouldn't happen in Singapore. You've got to work harder to get that kind of privileged, value-adding access to senior executives.
Marketing and sales need to work even closer together. To understand buyers, we need to connect with their digital footprint to ensure we ‘tailor our approaches’ beyond the traditional ‘blanket marketing’. Key considerations include:
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. How can you maximise the value you deliver to them? How do you help them win? Digital technology enables us to enjoy greater access to knowledge. The decreasing ages and increasing sophistication of buyers means that sales teams must adapt or die.
Sales leaders are conduits to success. They must ensure you have the right tools and capabilities to deliver. Relationship selling is not dead. But the type of relationship we need to build has changed. Even in markets like Singapore where traditionally relationships have been key (as in much of Asia), you now have to earn that right and first build trust. It can take several positive interactions before trust is built, so how can we do this virtually?
David is a sales transformation and change specialist who delivers results. After 30 years of working with sales teams across many industries in over 25 countries, David launched his own business, McMurdo Consultants, which is based in Sydney and delivers sales solutions for clients across Asia Pacific. With his extensive sales and consulting experience, he has developed practical, simple approaches and methodologies that help create effective and focused sales strategies that align to the ever-changing markets that businesses operate in. With his passion for sales, David enjoys helping sales and business development teams become successful.