Cultural insights

Building trust in a multicultural setting

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you were closing a deal and unexpectedly left empty-handed, wondering what went wrong? You did your homework, came prepared, and had a couple of negotiation rounds, but everything went utterly wrong just before the final agreement.

Selling to people or businesses always starts and ends with trust. Trust is built on understanding each other, understanding the differences in behavior, and respecting these differences. As trust and behavior come from your cultural background, quite often, a cultural gap is the cause of difficulties in negotiation ad closing a deal. Any international salesperson will recognize this gap from his or her experience.


Everyone who has been traveling tells stories about the “different habits,” traditions, and the exotic dishes they have been eaten. At every export network meeting, I also hear these stories besides the adventures about the different ways people do business, the differences in negotiation styles, and how they came or failed to close a deal, which they thought was already in their pocket.


To expand your business internationally, you need to connect to your customers abroad and build a relationship with them. You can do this by bridging the gap between your cultural background and the culture in your target country. You have to deal with three cultural dimensions:

  • Communication
  • Time scheduling
  • Trust

You will need to bridge this cultural gap in a very early stage in your marketing and sales funnel and building trust and a relationship as soon as you can. In many exporting companies, bridging the gap starts in the sales department as soon as people meet each other.

As we live in a digital age wherein B2B worldwide digitisation is still rising, you can start building trust at a much earlier stage in your (digital) marketing process.