International relationships take time to develop. You have to be in it for the long haul and cannot expect to start partnerships or relationships solely on a handshake or a simple phone call. Face-to-face interactions and introductions, especially on big-money deals, are the norm. Try these tricks the next time you’re working with exhibitors or suppliers from abroad.
Never assign a junior or low-level staffer to meet an executive.
Send a director to meet a director, a president to meet a managing director, and so on. If you fly a low-level person overseas on the first meet, it’s considered an insult and may be hard to overcome.
Do your homework on cultural norms.
How firm should your handshake be? What’s the respectful way to give someone a business card? These may seem minor in America, but they matter in other countries. Learn all you can about the culture and best practices of the destination before meeting someone abroad.
Try to be introduced by someone else.
It’s all about who you know, especially when meeting high-level executives and government officials. If you can, get someone you know (or a friend of a friend) to introduce you. It takes out a lot of legwork.
Don’t be alarmed if you are asked personal questions or how long your company has been in business. This is normal in many cultures. Potential business associates want to know about the person they will be doing business with. They also want to know specific details about your business or association.
A second-generation exhibition industry veteran, Stephanie Selesnick has been with International Trade Information Inc. since the ’90s and became president in 2004. A well-known exhibition and event industry speaker and trainer, Selesnick has spoken with groups in person and via webinars from across the U.S., Canada, China, Europe, Mexico and Latin America. She is also co-founder and moderator for #Expochat, the weekly TweetChat for the expo industry.