Selling in Cyprus

Selling in Cyprus

As a British guy trying to sell to businesses in Cyprus, I meet the question of cultural differences regularly. So what are they, and what can you do about it?

Language

A big question to be aware of is language. I don’t speak Greek, I wish I did, but I do know enough words to be able to greet somebody courteously, ask how they are, and describe how I like my coffee. It gets me by, but it’s not ideal.

Always bear in mind when selling to Cypriots in Cyprus, that you’re asking them to use a language other than their own in their country. Not very fair…

So speak slowly using simple words and sentences. Be sensitive to there being a very fine line between being condescending and being totally understood. It’s often easier and much more helpful to both sides to ask lots of questions.

Don’t generalise

There’s no such thing as a ‘Cypriot’ or a ‘Brit’. More like a kaleidoscope of differences.

Think of it this way. There are Brits I trust and there’s Brits I wouldn’t trust with the longest of long bargepoles. It’s exactly the same with Cypriots. Trying to categorise an island full of people into one pigeon hole is a sure road to disaster.

Community

Cyprus as a community is a small one. Everybody knows everybody. The family unit is strong, and people have an equally strong sense of belonging to their roots.

That means people generally prefer to work with people they know, and the extended families and communities facilitate this

Trust

In Britain every business transaction is underpinned by a contract and that makes business impersonal. If anything goes wrong, you’ve the contract to fall back on.

Sure there are contracts in Cyprus, but they don’t carry the weight they do in England. Legal processes and therefore any form of redress can take ages, and legal services in Cyprus are eye-wateringly expensive.

The result – you may have a contract but in the real world it’s unlikely you’ll be able to depend on it.

This makes business much more personal. The individual on the other side of the desk wants to know who you are as a person. They want to feel they have some form of connection with you. And most of all, they want to feel they can trust you.

That makes business much more relationship based than most British (or especially American) people are used to.

How do you work through this?

The first step is always to find a connection. Who do you know that the person you’re selling to knows? Where do they come from and do you know anybody there?

You can’t hurry this first step. If you do, you’re probably wasting your time. You’ll almost certainly be seen as pushy and untrustworthy. And that’s a bad place to be starting a new business relationship.

Often at a first meeting little business at all will be talked. Just a lot of fishing around trying to find connections. I wish social networking – especially LinkedIn – was in wider use in Cyprus.

The other very important dimension to this is you have to do what you say you are going to do, always. Word travels very fast – both positively and negatively. Good reputations take an age to build. Bad reputations are created in an instant.

Recognise also the point when a deal is done. If you pass the trust test and you shake hands on something, that’s probably as powerful as the most watertight contract you could ever negotiate. Yes it’ll be backed up by a contract, but the handshake is the point when the deal is done.

Can we help you sell in Cyprus?

If you’ve found this helpful and you’d like to talk some more, call us on +357 99 860725 or contact us.