Do you speak the language of your MEA Distributors?
We have had many Medical Manufacturers asking us for advice and assistance in exporting to MEA. They are facing communications issues with Distributors in the region. This is mainly due to their unfamiliarity with local business methods and practices.
If you base your success on the fact that your Distributors speak English, You are wrong. Yes, MEA Business people speak English and adopt western look but they don't necessarily think or react like native English speakers and certainly do not have the same Business Standards.
MEA culture is a strong force and will always dominate the spoken and written word. Ignoring this cultural factor is a recipe for failure.
Whether you are new or you have been doing business in MEA region for a while, here is a simple checklist for successfully dealing with your MEA customers:
Try to learn some Arabic words; it helps to break down barriers. Your Distributors will be pleased to see that you also care about their language and their cultures.
Hierarchy and bureaucracy are to be respected. You may have to deal with the staff long before you meet with the Boss or the “Sheikh”
Good verbal communication is a critical factor for success. Although quality standards and written deals should be the priorities, exchanging ideas, getting product buy-in and sales commitment are mainly verbal. So, make sure to speak and meet with your Distributors on a regular basis.
The pursuit of success, honor and social standing is either personal or related to a family social status. This is how Arabs have been raised and in most cases dignity is above success in Business. No matter what, do not hurt a person’s dignity or you will spoil the opportunity of doing business forever.
Islam is the main religion in the Middle-east. A few hours spent learning the influence of Islam on social and Business practices is very helpful. It will improve your chances of success.
There is so much diversity of ethnicity and religion .. in MEA. They may share common values. However, do your own due diligence as each community may have its own Business etiquette.
Familiarity with customs and etiquette ranging from business methods, to history and religious customs will open the doors for you and allow you to spot new market opportunities. Do not hesitate to seek advice from qualified agencies or government bodies to assist you in your export journey.