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Global Business Guide: How Female Entrepreneurs Can Start Selling Internationally

The potential for women to acquire leadership roles in entrepreneurial ventures has never been greater, with a growing wave of women pushing for top seats in companies and launching new businesses of their own.

Some of the advantages they bring to the workplace are better financial management, a wider diversity of insight, and measurably more innovation.

But while the challenges and opportunities at home are familiar and well-documented, understanding the constraints and coming up with strategies for success as a female entrepreneur working overseas can be a challenge. Culture and social norms based on an entirely separate history strongly affect the business world and shape successful communication and interaction.

What’s expected of a businessperson in one country may look significantly different in another. However, the business opportunities presented in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America make it well worth the effort and investment for women entrepreneurs to learn how to sell internationally. Here are five tips to get you started:

Study the culture

Recognise that there are differences between cultures and that it’s your job to understand those and work within the constraints. For instance, in Gulf-based countries, what is expected of women’s behaviour and how you could impress a client may be very different from what you experience at home. Communication is more relational and indirect than you might expect. You’ll need to learn how to use those expectations as a starting place to build from, rather than a constraint from which to escape. Displaying openness toward international cultures can open doors too; try learning a few phrases in a local language to demonstrate your regard and willingness to invest.

Know the history

Invest some time in studying the history of the region you want to do business in, including relationships between local societies, and between that area and your home country. Understanding what has gone on in the past will help you be aware of and sensitive to any historical barriers, frustrations, or expectations that may come into play when you’re trying to make a deal.

Learn from a local

Find a tutor who is native to the area you want to do business in to help you understand and navigate it from an insider’s perspective. They’ll be able to coach you on what behaviour and mannerisms will be acceptable, and which would be off-putting to a local.

Build relationships

Successful professionals know the power of good networking, and sales and marketing staff know it’s important to build a connection before asking for anything. Don’t dive in with your sales pitch. Do invest in understanding and connecting with locals without demanding anything of them upfront, and remember that you’ll need to connect in a way that’s sensitive to their cultural expectations.

Have patience

Recognise the learning curve for both yourself and those you’re trying to do business with. It will take time for you to understand how best to sell internationally, and to build the connections and skills to do so. Sales cycles and deal closing will look and feel a little different as well, so prepare as thoroughly as you can ahead of time.

There are a variety of tools that you can use to help you sell internationally. Get a language app to help you with culture and language learning. Make sure you use a reliable foreign exchange resource so you can understand the amount of money you will need to send money from the UK to UAE and other Gulf nations when negotiating deals.

Female entrepreneurs are now well positioned to take advantage of the growing opportunity to sell internationally. It is, of course, necessary to prepare by researching the culture and history of new markets, to invest in relationships, and to give it time.

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