How do you become successful in a business development function for the German market? How can you best start, what works well and what are absolute pitfalls to avoid? In this article we look at various strategies for prospecting, gaining trust, negotiating and winning deals successfully.
The Germans have the image that they are very formal and always arrive on time for their appointment. That everything in Germany is very formal and structured organized. In general, this is also true, especially when you look at the German business world, which is very formal.
If we look at the German business culture and how best to approach companies, I think good professional telephone acquisition can be effective. Germans tend to listen and reply out of politeness. That’s why cold calling has a much better chance of success here as a means of communication than elsewhere. Read here the essential tips and secrets of a great cold calling script.
Of course, it is not easy to get the right decision makers immediately on the phone. Germans can also be selective in answering their phone. Personal assistants will try to filter the conversations as much as possible for their managers. Still, I’d put more effort into cold calling myself.
Also, I would try with written communication (email /letter) in advance to announce why I am going to call soon and why I would like to speak to this person. Of course, in such a letter or e-mail we should not immediately disclose all information. We still have to keep the ultimate pay-off for the actual conversation. The formal structured approach will certainly help you to get the right person on the line in Germany.
In addition, this approach is of high quality and professionalism. Something Germans are sensitive to. This distinguishes you directly from the mass competitors, who spend less time and attention on a good preparation.
With this approach, I think you’re a lot more likely to be able to speak to the right contacts in person to schedule a follow-up appointment. It certainly takes you a lot more time in terms of preparation, but it ultimately gives you more qualitatively higher results.
In order to gain the trust of a German, you have to honour all the agreements made and be on time. What you shouldn’t do is not address your interlocutor in the right way. By addressing I mean at least the formal “Sie” form.
If the German customer needs “Duzen” (informal you-form), the customer will indicate this himself. But you never take the initiative to do that yourself. Especially if the other person is older than you. I cannot stress enough how important it is that “Duzen” is really out of the question without permission!
Another big pitfall is ignoring professional titles. Does anyone have “Dipl” or “Dr.” or “Ing” to stand for his name? Then you have to use all these titles in appealing to this person. So “Herr Doktor Mueller.”
Titles are very important in Germany. Many non-German sellers think they are doing a good job, by neatly using the “Sie” form. But you really get ahead and deserve respect when you know you have to use the title as well. Your interlocutor will appreciate this very much. Especially if he knows that this is not common in your country, for example, and you do your best to apply it according to German customs.
In addition, Germans like predictable trajectories and formalized processes. If you pay extra attention to following and respecting the RFP process, you’re definitely going to score points.
Negotiating and closing:
Germans are good at negotiating, but they are not going to get on with the negotiations, as some Indian business partners do. Read here how you can negotiate and win deals from Indian Business Partners. Germans just want to make sure they get the very best quality for a correct amount. By a correct amount, I mean an amount, for which quality can be guaranteed at healthy margins. The German wants to make sure he doesn’t pay too much.
That’s why my best closing tip for making deals in Germany is the following:
Convince your German business partner that this is the very best quality at the best correct price. That you charge a higher price than the competitor, so that you can continue to guarantee the reliability and service of your product/service.
How you end up doing this and prove it is, of course, different for every industry. But the fact is that if you succeed, you can make deals with Germans faster and with higher profit margins than in other countries. The most important thing to remember is the following:
Germans do not want the lowest price, but the best quality.
Make formal and clear agreements on the negotiation process. Make it clear what is then specifically negotiated in each appointment. Make everything transparent and predictable. Leave nothing to chance. This way you can close more deals and make it a lot easier for yourself with the internal forecasting for your manager.
By opting for an international sales position, you certainly don’t make it any easier for yourself. With culture you introduce an extra dynamic that you have to take into account. I would still advise you to choose an international sales position. That has nothing to do with possible business trips.
Working with other cultures just makes your daily work a lot more interesting. You can learn a lot from it. Often foreign deals are bigger and more challenging. The appreciation, experience and contacts you build are great and very useful for your personal development and for your career!
This is an excerpt from the book “The corporate sales winners guide: Transform your life and become a top sales performer” by Gerrit Jan de Vries. View the ebook and the paperback version on Amazon.