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Success stories

A German-US “Failure to Communicate”

A German client was unable to “talk” to its US supplier/partner, each conversation seeming to spawn new misunderstandings. The Germans saw their US counterparts as exposing themselves to extreme risk, while the Americans saw their German colleagues as conservative, hopelessly risk averse. As trust evaporated attention to technology receded. The relationship was in danger of collapse.

ICG led these organizations to realize that each was hearing the words without understanding their true meaning. Each was overlooking rarely-verbalized risk horizons while projecting its respective assumptions upon the other party. The American firm learned to present thorough proposals supported by “enormous” data volumes that Germans expect. The German firm learned to be sensitive to the impact of its negotiating style and to constantly state its underlying assumptions so that US technical counterparts could design with their needs in mind.

A US “Mission Critical” Service Misses the Mark in Asia

A premium US offering often described as “mission critical,” failsafe, and “all weather” to justify premium pricing for premium service was failing to sell in the Sino-Asian market.

ICG determined that while US buyers understood the implied connection to the rigorous “mission critical” demands of space and defense applications, Chinese buyers found the concept remote and irrelevant in their culture, i.e., a “mission critical” service had no value and, thus, its price had to be constantly explained and defended. ICG determined that a luxurious, premium, service option deserving of royalty and upper castes was better called Golden Service or Double Gold Service.

The client maintained separate ad campaigns as American culture saw “golden” as merely an “expensive service.”

View Comparison Spider Graphs.


Winning offshore requires knowledge of what to sell, when to sell it, and how to sell it in offshore markets. What the client sells at home has an invisible overhang on what it will sells and how it invests overseas, i.e., clients tend to export their marketing and engineering viewpoint and processes along with the product without adapting them to the needs of the target market.

Foreign markets are not smaller versions of the US market. Each foreign market has its own technology horizon; needs unique, tailored content in its products and services; buys those products in a specific cycle; purchases those products for different reasons; and demands its own marketing themes and sales mechanisms.

Foreign markets vary widely among themselves and in comparison to the US. Clients that drive this awareness into each segment of their operations are capable of becoming successful global firms with products and services sought by the potential buyers in each global region.

Many management and development teams possess a dangerous myopia where different is assumed to be wrong rather than merely different. Often, home offices are blind to the needs of offshore consumers in terms of products, appropriate services, and the creation of unique serducts (the merger of product plus service) that define entirely new selling opportunities.

ICG challenges the tendency to view foreign markets as smaller mirrors of the home market. These smaller mirrors are assumed to have the same technology horizon, the same content in products and services, the same time buying cycle, the same reasons for purchasing, and the same response to home marketing themes and sales vehicles. Firms with centralized marketing groups reflect the marketing mindset of the region where they reside and are apt to export that viewpoint with their products.

ICG guides clients to adopt the appropriate approach to offshore markets and then suggests a process for integrating this approach throughout the organization. Without effective education, the internal organization will hear the words without understanding the true meaning and continue implementing a familiar, flawed marketing plan.

We help clients capture the psychographic and demographic buying characteristics and technology horizons of both the offshore target market and their home market in order to contrast the “product drivers” in terms of end user needs, business needs, and the technologies most valuable to the local market. In addition, ICG emphasizes the different risk horizons associated to a local market.

A typical ICG project process:

  • Product drivers and “cultural markers” are selected based upon the unique buying cycle for the product under consideration.
  • Home office product development processes, advertising, and marketing campaigns are mapped against these foreign buying needs.
  • Inconsistencies and voids between domestic and offshore requirements are noted.
  • Decisions are founded on these differences. Which domestic products and selling approaches are inappropriate to the offshore region? Where are missed opportunities? What products must be developed or tailored to the region.
Sellers, manufacturers and suppliers can quickly see where they misplace emphasis, development monies, and marketing/advertising campaigns. Without appropriate analysis firms continue to be baffled when their products don’t sell, continue to have “unexpected” regional revenue shortfalls, and continue to scapegoat local country managers or distributors. We help clients avoid lost direct and indirect opportunities – a situation that is rarely recoverable before more intelligent competitors absorb their market share.


An Approach to Negotiation
Originally prepared as lecture notes for guest lectures in negotiation at Clark University. Twelve interacting concepts that frame our approach to negotiation.