Deirdre McPartlin of Enterprise Ireland offers three tips for doing business in Germany:
-- Understand our own culture and understand theirs. This means you will be able to adapt and be successful here. We think of ourselves as flexible but Germans are risk-adverse.
This means that the first thing you need to demonstrate is reliability and dependability; flexibility comes later.
It also means the German customer is looking for greater detail than their British or US counterparts. They want to see you understand their specific needs, they also want facts and evidence -- marketing statements don't work here.
For business customers there is a clearly defined decision making process, this can make the sales cycle longer but if successful you have a more loyal customer at the end of the process.
Being risk-adverse means that Germans are not "early adopters". This means they want to see that something is tried and tested before they buy it, so references from other customers are important.
The only exception here is if a product is truly innovative and addresses a specific need that they are actively looking to overcome.
2 -- Germans are not nationalistic in their buying behaviour but they do expect high standards of service and reliable suppliers.
This means you need to demonstrate that you will deliver just as good a service and be just as reliable as the supplier down the road, which they could buy from, with the added benefit that your service is better. Agree times, dates and stick to them. Make sure you ask enough questions to understand the German customer's expectations.
3 -- Like any market, to be successful requires commitment of time and resources. Don't stretch yourself too thinly. Do your research and only take on a market that is strategic for your company, but then make the commitment. Senior management must get directly involved initially and visit the market regularly in order to understand the customer.