The nature of a training program depends largely on both the home culture of the sales person and the culture of the business system in the foreign market. Also important is whether expatriate or local personnel will be representing the firm. Training for the expatriates focuses on the customs and the special foreign sales problems that will be encountered whereas local personnel require greater emphasis on the company, its products, technical information and selling methods. In training either type of personnel, the sales training activity is burdened with problems stemming from long established behavior and attitudes. Local personnel, for instance, cling to habits continually reinforced by local culture. Nowhere is the problem greater than in China or Russia, where the legacy of the communist tradition lingers. The attitude that whether you work hard or not, you get the same rewards has to be changed if training is going to stick. Expatriates are also captives of their own habits and patterns. Before any training can be effective open minded attitudes must be established.
Continual training may be more important in foreign markets than in domestic ones because of the lack of routine contact with the parent company and its marketing personnel. In addition, training of foreign employees must be tailored to the recipients’ ways of learning and communicating. For example the Dilbert cartoon characters theme that worked so well in ethics training courses with a company’s American employees did not translate well in many of its foreign.
One aspect of training is frequently overlooked: Home office personnel dealing with international marketing operations need training designed to make them responsive to the needs of the foreign operations, . In most companies, the requisite sensitivities are expected to be developed by osmosis in the process of dealing with foreign affairs. However, the best companies provide home office personnel with cross cultural training and send them abroad periodically to increase their awareness of the problems of the foreign operations.
The Internet now makes some kinds of sales training much more efficient. Users can study text on screen and participate in interactive assessment tests. Sun Microsystems estimates that its use of the internet can shorten training cycles by as much as 75 per cent . And in some parts of the world where telecommunications facilities are more limited, CD-ROM approaches have proven quite successful, Lockheed Martin uses an interactive CD-ROM based system to train its employees worldwide on the nuances of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and associated corporate policies and ethics.
Motivating Sales Personnel:
Motivation is especially complicated because the firm is dealing with different cultures, different sources, and different philosophies. Marketing is a business function requiring high motivation regardless of the location of the practitioner. Marketing managers and sales managers typically work hard, travel extensively and have day to day challenges. Selling is hard, competitive work wherever undertaken and a constant flow of inspiration is needed to keep personnel functioning at an optimal level. National differences must always be considered in motivating the marketing force. In one study, sales representative in comparable Japanese and American sales organizations were asked to allocate 100 points across an array of potential rewards from work. As shown in Exhibit the results were surprisingly similar. The only real difference between the two groups was in social recognition which predictably the Japanese rated as more important. However, the authors of the study concluded that although individuals’ values for rewards may be similar the social and competitive contexts still require different motivational systems.
Communications are also important in maintaining high levels of motivation; foreign managers need to know that the home office is interested in their operations and in turn they want to know what is happening in the parent country. Everyone performs better when well informed. However, differences in language culture, and communication styles can make mutual understanding between managers and sales representatives more difficult.