Several years ago I read a book by Robert Temple titled The Genius Of China.
The book is based on the authoritative research of Professor Joseph Needham, the world’s foremost scholar of Chinese science. In his book, Robert Temple describes hundreds of inventions first brought to the world by China. Some of these inventions include the iron plow, water power, paper, fishing reel, porcelain, matches, chess, the umbrella, movable type, the spinning wheel, the decimal system, the seismograph, the kite, the parachute, gunpowder, landmines and the rocket, to name just a few. A few years ago, while traveling in China, I was told China invented spaghetti and pizza, which was introduced to Italy by Marco Polo.
While in China I had the opportunity to interact with a variety of salespeople and I believe that China invented selling, but I feel they are far from having perfected it. In business-to-business sales, the Chinese people practice the principle of relationship selling. Given the choice, they will buy from someone they believe, like and trust. The Chinese salesperson will spend the time necessary to build a relationship that will generally involve the custom of the tea ceremony. For the current generation, capitalism has been an evolution from warlords to communism to socialism and finally, a form of socialistic capitalism. Street vendors are capitalists at their worst behavior. Their “in-your-face” approach demonstrates their desire and commitment to the trade, but does not build relationships. They sell price, not quality and value, while generally fostering distrust, through repeatedly reducing price as an incentive to buy. Product quality has no relationship to price or service.
I discovered both the Ying and Yang within their sales culture. They are persistent, but lack patience. They will tell you what you want to hear without any regard for integrity. As a rule, vendors tend to be aggressive to a fault, not recognizing proper physical boundaries. On both sides of the sales equation, all seems to be fair for both the buyer and the seller. I might be a little harsh in my assessment, however, I did learn a lot. Here are a few of the things I learned that might be of value to salespeople in this country.
- Never underestimate the power of eye contact.
- Persistence is often the deciding factor in completing a sale.
- Focus on the needs, wants and desires of the prospect.
- Communication is far more visual than spoken.
- Money talks, no matter what language you speak.
- The very best salespeople maintain their integrity and values.
- The selling and buying of goods and services is the basis of every economy.
- Most salespeople focus on price, while the best salespeople focus on needs.
- People respond in kind. The golden rule is cross-cultural.
- Sales performance is driven by the desire for a commission.
The Chinese people may have invented paper, porcelain, gunpowder and sales, but selling was perfected in this country by salespeople who understand and apply the key principles of human relationships. China may be the manufacturing capital of the world, but I consider America to be the world’s sales capital.