By Peter Roper

There comes a point in every expat’s time in China when they finally feel some sort of understanding of their adopted country; some sort of comfort that they know exactly what to expect in a situation. Said expat then receives a rude shock when a totally unexpected event brings them back down to size. That point may come after six months (for the naively confident), two years, or even five, but more than likely it will come after all three, and come repeatedly, until they is accept that the learning curve in China never levels off – it is steep and unrelenting. The two-year ‘veterans’ scoff at the six-month ‘veterans’ and the five-year ‘veterans’ scoff at them both. The ten-year ‘veterans’ write books.

In the largest market on the planet – where numerous multinationals have underestimated and failed spectacularly, where brands like Google sit a distant second behind local market leaders (the same was true of eBay, until it pulled out completely) – any chance at a headstart is invaluable, and Selling Big to China: Negotiating Principles for the World’s Largest Market delivers practical advice garnered from author Morry Morgan’s decade of sales and training experience in The Middle Kingdom.

Author Morry Morgan.

Co-founder of ClarkMorgan Corporate Training in Shanghai, which boasts clients such as Otis Elevators, Maersk Shipping and BHP Billiton, Morgan has assisted European firms in training their Chinese sales forces since 2001, and the book is his distilled experience and the documentation of his series of well-tested steps.

Selling Big to China is primarily a guidebook for Western managers of Chinese sales staff, although its usefulness goes far beyond that. Almost anybody doing business in, or with, China, especially in sales and marketing, will find benefit here, and Western expats in general will find the information on Chinese demographics useful in everyday living. More than one anecdote is straight from a local clothes market.

The five basic qualities a good salesperson should have are set out – exhaustive product knowledge, building goodwill, finding needs, legwork and following through with promises – and the entire process from approaching prospective clients, building goodwill, checking, negotiating tactics to relationship management is broken down. While most of the book’s content is framed specifically for China, a lot of the sales advice is transferrable and widely applicable.

Morgan’s background in microbiology and pharmacology peeks through in his obvious penchant for acronyms and formulas:

The Target Acquisition Equation (TAE) can be utilised to woo prospective customers (Benefits + Trust = Agreement x Price Quotient).

But this isn’t to say the book is clinical or dull reading. Anecdotes are plentiful, the advice hyper-practical, and the language refreshingly frank (“The Old Red Guards… have their own distinctive style: a Polo branded shirt, slacks, and a man-bag.”).

Selling Big to China may not replace actual experience – nothing can – but it can give the reader a considerable headstart in a market where common sense grown from a Western up-bringing is routinely thrown out the window.