When Martin first announced the Culture Club title, I thought, “Oh no, what do I know about that!” Then I thought again, and a term from a recent Italian movie came to mind: “Una faccia, una razza” – one face, one race. It got me thinking.
After a sheltered UK-based time in the 1980s, I have spent 30 years working with sales and bid people from many countries. The 1990s involved US, Belgian and Dutch colleagues; the 2000s took me (virtually if not always physically) across east and west Europe, Australasia, Africa, the US and Canada; and in the last decade, I have trained people from across the globe. And here’s the thing…selling and bidding is selling and bidding the world over. We talk the same language, experience the same frustrations, share the same sadness when we lose and joy when we win. We are a global tribe.
Of course, within any group of people, there are differences. In every country, culture and profession there are different personalities; each of us has our own unique mix of characteristics. But, as sales and bid people, we share a common goal – to win business. We form permanent and temporary teams to do exactly that. Looking back, I have always just turned up, wherever, whenever, to form or join a team with winning in mind.
So, let me share some of my favourite Culture Club highlights, admittedly with some sweeping generalisations for which I request forgiveness and blame artistic licence.
My best multinational bid experience was running a team in a supply chain supporting a major system integrator (SI) on a big defence deal. The fabulous Welshman running the SI bid was smart and savvy, and he had a vision. He also had spadefuls of humility and inclusivity. He managed a complex cross-European team with a clarity of decision and communication that was a joy to behold. He had a lot to do with me eventually joining the tribe.
And how can I forget bidding defence deals in former Eastern Bloc countries? Always an interesting cultural experience. We invariably had a local partner who understood the ropes and led the proceedings, but we had to protect our position, our reputation and our margins. This usually involved intense after-dinner, eyeball-to-eyeball strategising with the head honcho – on one occasion in a mock wartime cabaret-style restaurant drinking strong spirit of dubious origin poured from smuggled-in plastic Pepsi-Cola bottles. Our shared purpose kept me going!
Top of my list of cultural training experiences has to be the class of 25 Portuguese folk. They had been told the limit was 16, but they just kept turning up. Trying to get them to turn off phones and close laptops was pointless, and the breaks and lunches were interminable as the chatter and cigarettes ate into the time. But their passion for the subject and willingness to stay after class to make up lost hours were such that I could forgive the blatant disregard for protocol. We had a ball. They lapped up the training because the bottom line was we were all part of the business-winning tribe.
The converse of the irreverent Portuguese behaviour was the wonderful Indian team I trained one December after an urgent phone call asking if I could fly to Dallas for a two-day workshop “next week”. Yes, that’s right, an Indian team in Dallas. It was worth the long haul – they were well-behaved, appreciative and inclusive. And, I had the best Indian meal ever. Yes, that’s right again, a full Indian cultural and culinary experience in an out-of-town shopping mall. We spent the whole evening chatting enthusiastically about winning business round the world.
I could go on. I usually do. But this time I’ll swing full circle back to my Italian passion with the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Whether you are leading or working in a national or international bid team, harness local knowledge, respect local culture and embrace your colleagues. Whatever beautiful, unique country we are working in, people are people and there will always be challenges within a group. But, at the end of the day, we are all part of a global business-winning tribe – una faccia, una razza.
This article was written by Sarah Hinchliffe.
Sarah has over 35 years’ selling and bidding experience, which she loves to share through her freelance work, articles and presentations. A constant champion of creative storytelling and professional rigour, she never tires of encouraging sales and bid teams to join up, work as a team and win more business together.