In Asia and the Middle East, efforts to engage a particular contact at a customer company may depend on whether you can arrange an introduction from someone who is either higher in the chain of command or someone whom the desired contact admires. Yet in more egalitarian societies, like Scandinavia, you are better off simply contacting a person directly, because invoking the name of someone else may be seen as unwelcome “name-dropping.”
Humor should be used sparingly, however. What’s perceived as funny varies wildly between locales and regions, and even between individuals.
3. Simple gestures can make a big difference. Small talk can be nice—and in some cultures, it’s essential. Choose topics carefully and avoid politics. For example, in Arab countries, it’s okay to ask, “How is your family?” But avoid specifically asking about a person’s daughter.
In Asia, a business card is seen as an extension of the person. Present your business card to the person you meet, text-side out, with both hands—and never with the left hand alone. Likewise, take the card that is offered to you with both hands, looking at the card and then at the person, acknowledging him or her. Keep the card on the table in front of you during the meeting.
4. Group and social hierarchies. In individualistic cultures like those in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Northern Europe, it is acceptable for individuals to promote their own reputations and social status. In some other cultures, however, people often prioritize their colleagues’ reputations over their own.
5. Regional privacy laws. Be aware of local privacy requirements when collecting data for customer references. For example, actions that are acceptable in the United States, such as scanning trade show badges, may violate the law in other countries.
Further, be cautious about incentivizing customers. In some countries, including the U.K., employees are forbidden to accept gifts. In other countries, gifts are expected and customary.