Guest Writer: Maria Chow (Spark Asia):
Asia is a high-growth region with great potentials for a training programme like Income/Outcome. It is however extremely diverse – cultural/work practices as well as languages vary from country to country. Today, I would like to share with you my past 18-months’ experience marketing the business games in Southeast Asia.
Based on a number of training surveys that I have personally conducted over the years, Asians in general gravitate towards training programmes that deliver “practical” and “tangible” outcomes. To me, Andromeda’s family of business simulations fits the bill perfectly. With deliverables that are deemed “practical” and the promise of an experiential learning opportunity that is highly sought after in Asia, I find myself off a good start with most clients.
Having said that though, there are substantial challenges and obstacles one has to overcome in the process…
You will not be surprised if I were to say that language remains the biggest hurdle. “English as a business language” works in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and to a certain extent, China. In Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Korea however, language presents itself as a big challenge throughout the sales process and eventually, during training delivery.
Geographical distance is another challenge we face when developing client relationships. This is made worse in a region where people value personal contact highly. Geographical distance prevents us from seeing our potential clients face-to-face and often enough. While it may be the same for distributors in large countries like the United States, not being able to meet your potential clients face-to-face makes it extremely difficult for us to close a deal in this part of the world.
In order for us to overcome the issue of direct client contact, we get our local representatives who speak the language, understand the business culture and protocols to make the first contact with our potential clients. Every 3 months or so, we travel to Thailand and Malaysia (major markets in South East Asia) to follow up with these contacts.
One observation I have made after travelling and working extensively in this region for more than a decade is that the preference for interaction/delivery in local languages does not necessarily translate into a preference for a local trainer. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A foreigner who speaks the local language is viewed as an ideal trainer – someone who knows the world but is sensitive enough to the local culture to make whatever that he/she delivers relevant to the immediate context!
I understand that many of my fellow distributors have had experience training in Asia. I will be very interested to hear your views on this. Thank you for your time.