Petra HeldGuest blog entry by Petra Held, European Business Development Manager and Localization Expert at CSOFT

Apart from having the special technical knowledge required to sell a product or service, sellers also have to take into consideration different aspects of mutual interaction, like specific cultural knowledge of your target market(s), which should be used to develop a brand of tailored charisma that is indirectly reinforced through such knowledge.

Europe is a multilingual and multicultural geographical area, rather small compared to some countries, and the sheer amount of diversity between the Northern and Southern parts cannot be more pronounced. The climatic differences alone are severe, and over the course of the centuries, have doubtlessly influenced the various mentalities of inhabitants throughout the continent. Even if globalization has helped to modify the insular way of thinking among European cultures, practically nobody inside the community is really eager to give up their identity, nor their culture, regardless of material advantage.

Taking culture (and language, naturally) into consideration is necessary for sellers who are used to dealing with a large consumer market that speaks the same language, with a more or less homogenous cultural background. This is especially important for sellers who come from some parts of the United States, where only one language is generally spoken and where standard academic marketing rules taught in business schools have wide application. Ways of selling gleaned from this type of environment simply don’t apply in Europe.

Because of the number of countries in Europe, a seller who only speaks English and not the native language of the concerned country is doomed to failure, despite the fact that English is considered an international language. In Old Europe people are proud of their culture and many believe that business cannot be done at the expense of their identity. All this may appear quite strange for non-European citizens, but experienced and successful sellers within the European market know that buyer-seller relationships in industrial markets require conditions described in many articles and books, such as the IMP Group and H. Hakansson, among others.

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The knowledge necessary to achieve successful buyer-seller relationships involves understanding both the country and its culture, which indeed includes history, language, tradition, religion, mentality, etc., as well differences between higher forms of education. For example, France and Germany greatly differ in mentality and approach to business. Acknowledging, understanding, and following each country’s respective conditions of approach and interaction will allow for a successful market penetration and, as should be the aim, a long-term business relationship.

As a matter of fact, competitive advantage can only be reached through deep targeted knowledge.

If you’re interested in learning more about translation, localization, and sales strategies in Europe, feel free to contact Petra Held via e-mail ().


  1. Understanding Business Markets: Interaction, Relationships and Networks, 2nd Edition, The Dryden Press, New York  1997, edited by David  Ford for Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group
  2. An Interaction Approach, IMP Group
  3. The Development of Buyer-Seller Relationships in Industrial Markets, D. Ford
  4. How do Companies Interact?, D. Ford, H. Hakansson and J. Johanson
  5. Industrial Marketing Strategies and Different National Environments, L. Hallen and J. Johanson

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  1. This is so true!

    I can’t imagine a Sales in France approaching a client in English. With my short experience in the international hardware industry, I have not seen any major player working in English to do business with national distributors . I guess it would just be a big failure ;)

    This is a great entry! thanks Petra for pointing this out~