I’m sitting here in Los Angeles reflecting on how drastically different Americans are to Kiwis when it comes to their ability to execute the “getting to market” phase of business.
This post is about SELLING in the USA from the perspective of a Kiwi.
Kiwis are the most innovative and inventive people on the planet (that I have met so far). We are perfectly equipped to be problem solvers, and never admit defeat when faced with a challenge. But for two cultural reasons, we have incredibly poor sales skills.
#1 We are NOT inherently a rat race economy. Early on in school we are encouraged to be creative and individual. There is no great push to be ‘extraordinary’, there is no demand for excellence. In fact, in many cases those with a big ego or who choose to pursue excellence in their lives are criticised and singled out…aka Tall Poppy Syndrome.
#2 We’re a small country with little competition. We aren’t surrounded by companies and salespeople pushing hard and fighting for our business. We don’t get approached often. And we certainly don’t get approached ‘hard’ and pushed (often). As a result, we haven’t experienced a great demand for fast-paced, highly effective salespeople to be developed and created.
This is both incredibly awesome and incredibly challenging for New Zealanders.
Awesome: because we get to live in a low-pressure world without pesky sales people.
Challenging: because when we try to build international businesses we are ill-equipped.
Selling to the American
Americans, on the other hand, are hammered in the face thousands of times by salespeople every year. Competition is everywhere and they value a spirit of excellence.
That makes American customers incredibly good at sensing a sales pitch, and American salespeople incredibly effective at selling.
The American customer is like a shark smelling blood, they can spot a salesperson and a sales pitch from 3 miles away. They are abrupt and direct, and they don’t want waffling around. If they do bother to entertain you, they want to know what value you can provide, the cost and all the fine print…pronto.
And they DO judge you on your effectiveness at selling.
The American salesperson is probably a careers salesperson. Raised in the heartland of a large-scale sales organisation with the top market sales training and the best in the business of sales people surrounding them.
They have Delta Force level skill, and sniper-like precision. They are smooth talking, fun-loving, high intensity people.
Yes, many are full of shit.
But many who are incredibly effective too.
All that means: we as kiwis are completely out of our depth when we try to enter the USA to secure partners, customers or capital.
The Kiwi Edge in Selling
We are a humble people, truth telling, slower moving. Our brand here is really GOOD — especially with the level of conmanship and bullshitting the average American customer and investor sees.
A kiwi can and should leverage this brand of integrity and raw honesty.
However, when you try to sell in the USA, you have to be sharp too.
Yes, the kiwi customer you’ve tried to sell to in the past was kind, generous and forgiving. But the American customer is direct, impatient and ruthless.
→ You have to be self-confident and have a thick skin (because they will try to take you down).
→ You have to have a clear, concise pitch (know your value) and communicate it like a boss.
This is where Kiwis fall flat.
Most Kiwis have an absolutely shocking level of self-belief.
This makes you susceptible to jabs and jibes from customers who are trying to throw you off. And it will make it incredibly difficult for you to pick up the phone, email someone or attend a meeting if you keep getting shot down.
Most kiwis I know are terrible at knowing their value, succinctly presenting it, and communicating quickly.
This is NOT your fault. It is a cultural difference we have.
No one has ever demanded that you BE SUCCINCT. In fact, we have a high-tolerance society where people will entertain you even if you can’t shut your mouth. We’re very polite.
No one has ever told you to **** off and get to the point.
And no one has called you an asshole.
This ALL happens in the USA. This is just a defense mechanism that has arisen in their culture — because of being bombarded by sales pitches from early on in their lives.
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO BUILD A COMPANY WITH AMERICAN CUSTOMERS understanding these cultural differences and equipping yourself with the skills and inner self-belief should be a top-priority area of personal growth for you.
This is an investment you need to make in yourself to ensure you don’t get shell shocked when you land in San Fran, NYC or LA and actually talk to your customers and investors face-to-face.
Justin Scott is an LA-based kiwi tech entrepreneur. He has been working in/out the USA for two years. Not only can he help you hit the ground running from Los Angeles, with connections lined up ahead of time, but he get you equipped with the self-belief and sales skills you need to feel confident about every interaction you have in the USA.