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What are you selling?

Whatever your business, you know that you can sell better by further connecting with your audience; establishing increased value for the goods and/or services you offer; creating sufficient urgency so that customers buy. When they do, transaction represents the power of the customer to choose. Perhaps they choose you.

The power of customers

Dr. Axel Sprenger knows about the power of customers. He is Senior Director of European Operations for Automotive Solutions at J.D. Power. It’s his business to be of service to those selling globally by researching the opinions and purchases of customers who make up markets worldwide. “What is special about J.D. Power is that we don’t only track the opinion. We have actual transaction power…We can correlate what they like and dislike to their purchase decision.” In other words, said Dr. Sprenger, “We have knowledge about [customer] expectations and the fulfillment of those expectations.” Whether or not the customer is always right, as the saying goes, perhaps we can agree that the customer is the ultimate decision-maker in the success of our businesses. How do we influence them to buy what we’re selling?

Bringing the right product to the right market

As an expert provider in the area of global skills management, it was interesting for us to learn intercultures’ USP[i] from the perspective of a professional who studies the relationships between markets, products and purchases. When responding to our question about what J.D. Power “purchases” from intercultures, Dr. Sprenger’s excitement was audible: “The most striking thing [about our recent workshop with intercultures] was that this intercultural thing is not only about how to communicate with my [U.S.] American colleagues or Chinese colleagues…It’s about bringing the right product to the right market…intercultures is more than communication training. This is something I suppose is a huge business opportunity for a company like intercultures.” Of course, intercultures’ business opportunity is only as large as our benefit to our customers with whom we partner to understand that working better globally is an elastic idea that must adapt to the diversity of any given group of people and their common purpose.

Global skills

After having experienced a recent intercultures workshop in the company of J.D. Power colleagues, facilitated by intercultures Managing Director Stefan Meister, Dr. Sprenger could tie global skills development to the bottom line of his own teams: “Why is intercultures important? It’s important to [us] because we’re always working in international teams.” Similar to his own professional experiences within the company, there are times when J.D. Power team members from different countries meet for the first time in a hotel lobby and “must act and perform as one team” the next day when presenting to super senior management customers. Driving Mr. Meister to the airport after the workshop session that ran over its scheduled time upon participant request, Dr. Sprenger continued the conversation in the car. “That is what I discussed with Stefan [Meister] when we drove to the airport. Building a car, a product that is suitable for another market, means that you have to understand the culture.” Naturally, he shared an example related to his division’s core competence: If U.S. American-made cars have relatively larger engines and lesser driving performance, understanding archetypical U.S. national culture lends a clue to connecting with this target audience and establishing value. “Why [U.S.] Americans need big engines can be explained from their culture” in that “Americans have a high need for safety…[and] this [big engine] tells Americans that, ‘If I need to get away from danger, I need a strong engine.’” Culture-based associations between automobile features and country-specific customer response to those features also surfaced some interesting insights in intercultures’ work with Carmeq earlier this year.

A constructive start

One of our final questions for Dr. Axel Sprenger was about how the meaning of workshops like that that intercultures most recently led with J.D. Power are sustained. “How,” we asked, “does organizational learning take place in relation to global competence?” Dr. Sprenger’s response seemed to speak to the common experience that learning about global skills in the training room is a constructive start. From there, individuals and teams must actively decide to apply those lessons in the workplace incrementally as a work-in-progress. “You do the training and you have a couple of ‘a ha’ moments,” he said. “It sharpens your perception. It helps [you] to be more sensitive to working with a colleague when things go wrong or things don’t go as you were thinking…You have a tool or a means of knowledge…”. One of his take-aways was that, “Every nation in the world [thinks] that [they] are the ‘normal’ ones. We have to learn that in [insert country here] we are the freaks of the world!” If by “freak” Dr. Sprenger means, “valid and unique cultural personality,” we agree that in a global marketplace as diverse as ours, there is no true center. We may stay relevant to customers in such a world only by learning our own and others’ culture-based choices as we earn our customer’s buying power.

intercultures thanks Dr. Axel Sprenger and J.D. Power for helping make this article possible.

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[i] “Unique selling proposition” or “unique selling point.”

The above article was included in our Nov. 2015 intercultures e-newsletter.

Photo source title picture: Getty Images.

Photo credit „Portrait of Dr. Axel Sprenger”: Dr. Axel Sprenger.