In October I was lucky to present at the Outsource People 2015 conference in Kiev on Intercultural Sales Cycles. I was surprised by the level of interest from Ukrainian software development teams. Ukraine teams are known for their quality of work – so why was there such a thirst for more information on how to improve communications with USA clients?
As it turns out, there are plenty of differences between Ukrainian and USA culture that can cause misunderstandings when working remotely. As an American with a multicultural, international background, I can personally attest to the fact that Americans have a very particular set of expectations – and they consider them to be “normal” in business dealings.
Please note that I don’t want Ukrainians to completely lose their national character, nor do I think that only providers should have to accommodate American business culture. Each side of a remote or distributed working relationship should hold themselves absolutely, 100% responsible for understanding the other side’s culture and expectations. But since this article is addressed to Ukraine software development teams, I’m going to write about four of the 10 most common errors in communication made by Ukraine teams when working with USA clients. I’ll cover the other 6 errors and how to solve them here.
1. Rushing To Pitch
In American business culture, although the client is king, and they expect the provider/seller side of a business relationship to come to them, it’s just as important how it’s done. No two businesses are alike, and customers do want to see that the person trying to sell them an important business solution takes the time to know them and understand their problems. Being blasted with a standard, copy-paste pitch is not good.
To fix this, make sure to ask a few questions at the beginning of every conversation about how the other person is doing. Before you go into your pitch, ask them about their business, what they’re looking for, and if they have any ideas on how you could help them.
2. TV Mode
When someone only knows how to talk without stopping (and usually only about themselves), I call it TV Mode. When you turn on a TV, it doesn’t stop blasting content at you until you turn it off. There’s no pause and no chance for you to express yourself. Unfortunately, people or organizations who do this rarely realize it because they don’t give others a chance to show them. They’re too busy telling them about this great app they just built, the reason why they’re the best, how many days it will take them to build the project and how the client’s assumptions are mistaken…
Doing this with your USA clients will not result in successful business relationships.
I’ll go more into depth on how to fix this in my Intercultural Sales Cycles Workshops in Kiev and Lviv this January, but to start, a good rule of thumb is to wait five seconds after expressing a thought while speaking, or five hours after writing an email. This gives the other person time to come to you with feedback, questions, doubts, or praise.
3. Unanticipated Delays
USA businesspeople understand that projects can be delayed by things out of our control. But it’s not ok to fail to communicate what’s going on. If something unexpected happens that looks like it could impact your ability to deliver on time, always, always communicate it, as early as possible.
The difference between letting someone know two weeks in advance that the delivery date needs to be pushed back, versus letting them know three days after the delivery date that you couldn’t help not being on time, makes a huge difference to your USA clients. In other projects of mine, I’ve let go of teams that didn’t explain delays to me or were not communicative during a delay – but I’ve never let go of a team that told me about a roadblock beforehand and explained its impact on the project timeline.
4. Cold Service
This is a difficult one for many Ukraine teams because USA culture is so different when it comes to appropriate levels of friendliness in business. In Ukraine, it’s considered disrespectful to show too much friendliness in a work context because it presumes familiarity. In the USA, the customer has a wealth of choices, and expects a salesperson to woo them a little, to act kind and friendly. Although there are regional differences, in general people are expected to be kind to strangers, and to ask or answer questions with a smile.
If you’re wondering what to do about this, a smile is a good place to start. You don’t need to go overboard or make yourself uncomfortable, but do make an effort to smile a little bit more. You could even record yourself pitching to someone, watch it, and think about where you could have smiled a little more. A little friendliness can go a long way towards winning more projects.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to correct all of these problems, and some of the other ones that Ukraine-USA software development relationships seem to suffer from: unclear communications, poor customer service, disappointing client behavior, to name a few. I’ll teach practical techniques to solve them in my upcoming Intercultural Sales Cycles Workshops in Kiev Jan 22-23 and Lviv Jan 29-30.
To learn more about what we’ll cover, go to our event page. Registration is open but seats are limited (and prices will be going up soon) – so don’t wait!
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