Many American companies have reported running into a brick wall when trying to sell their products overseas. Even in cases where the American product is clearly superior, or available at a better price, the foreign wholesaler may not wish to buy the American product. The problem isn’t with the consumer, generally speaking, the world likes American made products. No, the problem is with the wholesaler.

Actually, the problem isn’t the wholesaler; it’s the American who’s trying to do business with the wholesaler. We have a tendency to expect the rest of the world to work like it does here in the good old U.S.A. But, you know something? The world doesn’t work that way. Each country and people group has their own way of doing things.

In most of the world, business is based upon first forming a personal relationship. That’s drastically different than here in the United States, where corporate policies and ethics laws prevent people from accepting gifts and expensive entertainment from their vendors. Here, business decisions are supposed to be cold, calculated, and a little bit contentious.

Have you ever heard the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, if we’re going to do business overseas, we need to learn how to do it the way that they understand business, not just the way we understand it.

That means that we need to start every business relationship by forming a personal relationship. Get to know the person you are trying to do business with. Go out to eat together, go to the ball game or the opera, whichever might be more appropriate. Find out about their family and let them know about yours. Basically, you need to form a friendship with that person you want to form a business relationship with.

The funny thing is that once you form the friendship, the business relationship is really easy to form. In most of the world, they’ll be open to just about any mutually beneficial proposal. Not only will they sell you their products, but they’ll be ready to buy yours.