International relationship management - Allan Evans of BDO

At the 2017 Professional Marketing Conference , Allan Evans, Global Head of Business Development and Marketing at BDO International provided a fascinating talk on adapting to cultures for international relationship management.

Allan started with an array of quotes, facts and figures that demonstrated that even small professional service firms have clients with international operations:

  • “The way the world is going, it’s technology driven. And it isn’t just driven by the old super powers, it’s driven by the Far East and new emerging economies” James Dyson
  • In 2010, 20 cities were home to more than a third of large companies whereas by 2025 more than 330 cities are likely to host a large company headquarters for the first time
  • Predictions for 2025 show that more than 45% of the Fortune Global 500 could be based in emerging regions (up from 5% in 1990 and 17% in 2010)
  • 58% of small businesses already have international customers and 72% plan to grow their international customer base by 2018 (Forex Market survey of 3000 SMBs)

“Our clients are going global” he concluded.

And whilst he acknowledged that cultures were homogenising, he also highlighted the importance of understanding and adapting to different business practices in different parts of the world.

  • He showed the differences in eight countries on drinking a toast and eating dinner
  • How miscommunication occurs between British and Dutch nationals
  • How gifts are expected in China but are traditionally declined up to three times before accepting
  • Perceived invasion of body space by Brazilians
  • How to air kiss a Belgian – both before and after a relationship has been established

He presented a world map of cultural types which included:

  • Contest
  • Machine
  • Network
  • Family
  • Solar system

Along with the international business material, Allan took an international lens to the five principles of how BDO manages business development:

  1. Pursuit (choosing)
  2. Conversion (using)
  3. Cross-selling (buying)
  4. Servicing (staying)
  5. Exploiting (recommending)

He shared the golden rules for leading, supporting and managing an international pitch and guidelines for international pricing. He pointed out the need – for regulatory purposes – of understanding what makes a good international client.

His three top tips for surviving in an international business were;

  1. Find a tribe of supporters
  2. Learn about culture
  3. Be prepared to travel (and spend time out in the evenings, for example, at night clubs, karaoke bars)

A previous interview with Allan is shown here:

Other blogs on international relationship management and marketing: