They’ll pay you more, but they expect more in return. Be prepared for their demands
Canadian entrepreneurs who cultivate customers in the United States frequently report the same set of observations about doing business south of the border: despite a common language and some high level cultural similarities, they quickly learn that the U.S. is actually several large regional markets, each with its own quirks and mores. And B2B companies often report that American business people are far more open to technological innovation that promises productivity improvements than their Canadian counterparts.
Jeff Quipp, CEO of SEARCH ENGINE PEOPLE, offers one more trait he often finds in his U.S. customers: a pervasive sense of directness. “You know what their demands are,” he says. “They’re very bold. They’ll tell you where you stand at any point in time.” Quipp finds that mindset refreshing, because there’s rarely any ambiguity. Canadian customers tend to be less forthcoming. But, as he adds, he’s discovered that needs to manage the firm so his U.S. customers are dealing with the staff who can deal with all that frank back-talk. His advice for other CEOs:
1. They’re tough. That means, choose your managers carefully. Quipp has a handful of account managers who typically end up handling U.S. clients. They must have, as he says, “thick skins” because if those customers are not happy, they’ll express themselves in no uncertain terms. “If they don’t like what you’re doing, they’ll tell you.” For those clients, he chooses managers who are direct, but who will also push back where necessary.
2. They expect rapid responses. When a Canadian client emails with a question, says Quipp, they don’t necessarily expect an answer immediately; the next business day is usefully a sufficient response time. Not so with U.S. clients: “When they contact you, they expect a call back within one or two hours,” he says. “When they don’t get a response [from the account manager] within an hour, they’ll come right to me.”
3. They’re not afraid to demand course corrections. Another difference: Canadian clients, he says, won’t complain about an account manager. His U.S. clients don’t hesitate to demand a new one if they’re not happy with the service they’re getting. “[They’ll say], ‘I don’t like this person, I want somebody new,'” Quipp says. He accedes to such demands.
4. They’ll pay more. Avoid low-balling to get the contract. From a pricing perspective, Quipp says he’s learned that U.S. customers prefer to pay more if they know they’ll get results. “Price for success. Don’t price to get the deal.”
Advice and tactics from Canada’s fastest-growing exporters and the editors of PROFIT magazine.