Case 02: Evaluating Potential Suppliers in Russia, Discussion
1. Generally speaking, people in relationship-focused cultures are uncomfortable talking business with strangers. Russian business people in particular tend to be suspicious of foreigners they don’t know well. Deal-focused Jerry should have found a way to be introduced to the Russian manufacturers. The local chamber of commerce could be one possibility; perhaps his German contact in Dessau could have helped.
2. Unfamiliar with the customs of Eastern Europe, Jerry expected a warmer welcome. He misread Ivan Petrovich’s lack of a smile as lack of interest in doing business. Then, instead of spending time in building rapport with the director talk he tried to proceed mechanically through his checklist of questions in order to evaluate the Pskov factory as a potential supplier. Although this deal-focused approach worked in his home culture, it did not match Petrovich’s expectations. The Russian boss wanted to get to know his visitor before divulging technical information about his production facilities.
3. While it is true that sellers are supposed to adapt to the buyer’s expectations, some business people from non-Western RF cultures are unable to do so. Within Europe this is particularly true of Eastern Europe. That means it’s up to the buyer to bridge the culture gap. Jerry Wilson should have followed Rule #1 and prepared himself by learning about Russian business behavior.