International personnel require a kind of emotional stability not demanded in domestic sales positions. Regardless of location these people are living in cultures dissimilar to their own to some extent they are always under scrutiny and always aware that they are official representatives of the company abroad. They need sensitivity to behavioral variations in different countries, but they cannot be so hypersensitive that their behavior is adversely affected.
Managers or salespeople operating in foreign countries need considerable breadth of knowledge of many subjects both on and off his job. The ability to speak one or more other languages is always preferable.
The marketer who expects to be effective in the international marketplace needs to have a positive outlook on an international assignment. People who do not like what they are doing and where they are doing stand little chance of success particularly in a foreign country. Failures usually are the result of overselling the assignment showing the bright side of the picture and not warning about the bleak side.
An international salesperson must have a high level of flexibility, whether working in a foreign country or at home. Expatriates working in a foreign country must be particularly sensitive to the habits of the market; those working at home for a foreign company must adapt to the requirements and ways of the parent company.
Successful adaptation in international affairs is based on a combination of attitude and effort. A careful study of the customs of the market country should be initiated before the marketer arrives and should be continued as long as facets of the culture are not clear. One useful approach is to listen to the advice of national and foreign business people operating in that country. Cultural empathy is clearly a part of the basic orientation because anyone who is antagonistic about the environment is unlikely to be effective.
Finally, international sales and marketing personnel must be energetic and enjoy travel. Many international sales representatives spend about two thirds of their nights in hotel rooms around the world. Going through the long lines of customs and immigration after a 15 hour flight requires a certain kind of stamina not commonly encountered. Some even argue that frequent long flights can damage your health. Even the seductive lights of Paris night fade after the fifth business trip there.
Most of these traits can be assessed during interviews and perhaps during role playing exercises. Paper and pencil ability tests, biographical information and reference checks are of secondary importance. Indeed, as previously mentioned, in many countries referrals will be the best way to recruit managers and sales representatives making reference checks during evaluation and selection processes irrelevant.
There is also evidence that some traits that make for successful sales representatives in the United States may not be important in other countries. In one study sales representatives in the electronics industries in Japan and the United states were compared. For the American representatives pay and education were both found to be positively related to performance and job satisfaction. In Japan they were not. That is the Americans who cared more about money and were more educated tended to perform better in and be more satisfied with their sales jobs. Conversely, the Japanese sales representatives tended to be more satisfied with their jobs when their values were consistent with those of their company. The few systematic studies in this genre suggest that selection criteria must be localized and American management practices must be adapted to foreign markets.
Selection mistakes are costly. When an expatriate assignment does not work out, hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted in expenses and lost time. Getting the right person to handle the job is also important in the selection of locals to work for foreign companies within their home country. Most developing countries and many European countries have stringent laws protecting workers rights. These laws are specific as to penalties for the dismissal of employees.
Source: International Marketing