Successful B2B Sales in Russia
Each nation has its own customs, traditions, culture, and they influence business relationships. Among the most influencing factors are values, ideology and religion, as well as individuality of a nation and of a person. Knowing what to expect can help you to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary tension.
Nowadays, Russian companies have a wide range of international partners and have mostly adjusted to a different way of thinking and handling situations. However, very often foreign companies have difficulties to fir into Russian realities and to find their own place in the Russian market. Some of them complain about bureaucracy and corrupt practices, as well as about their Russian partners not to be punctual in carrying out their obligations.
Here are a few things you might need to know before you enter Russian market:
• Rules and regulations are not always followed
• More often than not a company will try to avoid taking risks
• Partnership is often considered as conflict of interests. Nobody wants to have a half of revenue, they would prefer to have a better half.
• Emotional component can become the most important one. Many decisions are made (or not made) based on emotions.
• No decision will be made without the CEO. Nobody will just take the responsibility.
• Employees will always do what they were asked to. No matter if they see it is wrong, they will still do it because the boss said so.
• Mistakes are hardly analyzed. It is more about punishing the one who made the mistake and not about finding the roots of it.
• Employees make a lot of breaks during the working day. Tea-break, coffee-break, break to talk, break to smoke. You name it.
These are a few factors that can contribute significantly to success (or the lack of it) of your attempt to win the Russian market.
Still, it should be noted that more and more Russian companies try to adjust their business culture and the methods of work to those used in advanced countries. It simplifies the process of integration of a foreign company that wishes to find its own place under the Russian sun.
Once you are in the market your main objective is to sell your product and to secure profits. It can be complicated because you are not at home where you know all in-betweens and outs. You want to know which methods and techniques will work and which will not. You also want to know if there is any major difference from the way you used to do it and the way it is done in the Russian market.
Mostly (and luckily for you) there is hardly any difference in techniques used for sales. Of course, the way the techniques are used and performed and the focus can be different because you have to consider Russian mentality when you sell your product. But in general in the Russian market you use all the same methods that you would use at home. Some of them would even work better and present better results.
In Russia share of sales from telemarketing is growing from year to year. Telemarketing market share grows by 40% a year and is in top 3 in Europe based on rate of growth. It can be explained by the large potential of the Russian market. This type of sales is relatively new here and people are not yet tired from getting constant calls with an attempt to sell something. As a result, a standard efficiency rate of telemarketing in Russia is around 14-15% with no extra effort.
At the same time telemarketing is not used to its full potential in Russia. Many companies just do not yet understand the benefits of this sales method. We can confidently say that only one third of telemarketing resources is used. There is still a lot of room to grow profits with comprehensive use of telemarketing.
One thing that should be remembered though is that Russians make most of their decisions (including purchase ones) on the emotional ground. You should include it into your sales strategy. At the same time you should also consider that many Russians would not trust proposals from some unknown vendors. Your task will be to convince them that you are real, legal, your products are high quality and that you aren’t going to steal anything from them (however weird it might sound).
2. Direct Mail
One of another most effective sales method in Russia is direct mail. Of course, you should have a relevant data base. It is also one of the most popular methods which makes it a bit challenging. Each company gets dozens of mails with proposals, ads, invitations, etc. Most of it land up on the secretary desk and then in the trash bin. Waste of money you might think. And you will be wrong. All you have to do here it to stand out. How you do it? Use Russian mentality, the way Russians think and most importantly feel. Sometimes it pays off if you add a present to your mail, something like a fountain pen. In this case you can be sure that the top manager will at least get your mail. The rest depends on the way you have crafted your proposal.
Sometimes it also makes sense to follow up your mail with a call. It adds to the value and importance of the mail and the secretary will in most cases forward it to her boss.
With direct mails in Russia (probably in the rest of the world, too) it is like this – the more creative you are the more chances for success you have. If you have problems with creative ideas you can always use the services of the companies specializing in this area, the so-called Direct Mail Agencies.
3. Promotion Activities
Mostly here we talk about the presentations of your product when the customers get a chance to taste it, to touch it, to see it in use. Many companies arrange presentations in supermarket or in large trade centers where customers have all the opportunities to test the product and leave feedback.
Some companies launch seminars of different kind to present their products to target audience.
4. Distributors' chains
While direct sales as a method gain momentum still over 80% of companies use the services of distributors to sell their products. It allows the companies to cut their expenses in the area of promotion and advertisement of the goods and services they offer. Such method has both its pros and cons and its use depends largely on the nature of your production.
5. Trade shows
In Russia yearly over 2,000 trade shows take place. Some of them are more like fairs but a great deal are professional specialized exhibitions and trade shows. Successful and thoroughly planned participation in these events can help you find new channels of sales, new clients, and exciting opportunities.
Internet sales in Russia are in the infancy period. Almost every day new online-stores appear. Some are large like ozon.ru and offer over 500,000 items and others are small and aimed at specific target customers.
The problems appear when you have to ship your products. Most of the vendors can't afford to ship their goods within a day or two to every city in the large country. It takes time and undermines the entire meaning of ecommerce. This can explain why mainly citizens of large cities use online shops.
As you can see sales methods and techniques used by professionals in Russia are no different than those in other countries.
However, there are a few aspects that you have to pay attention to and use for successful launching of your business in Russia:
If you do not speak Russian, find someone who does. Use the services of interpreters and translation agencies. All your marketing and promotional materials (booklets, plans, company description, ads) should be in Russian or both in Russian and English.
They already have Russian goods on the market. Why should they take your products? Tell them why you are better. Give them something they can't get in Russia itself.
Take day-to-day realities into account:
Social, political, intercultural differences come into play. Consider them when planning your campaigns. Use them to your advantage.
And last but definitely not least, be active. It is a large market with great potential. And surely you are not the only one to see that potential. In order to beat competitors you have to be proactive. If you want a place in this market you got to get out there and take it.