LiBeL Column

My Way or the Thai Way

Columns from The Nation newspaper

There’s one born every minute

It’s a Monday morning. Let the games commence. All around us, deep in the bowels of every language school lurk the participants in a cerebral, one event, Olympics.

Over the months many contenders will take up the challenge – it will be a long drawn out conflict with each side claiming minor victories along the way. Proverbial legs are cocked and territory marked before battle lines are drawn and re-drawn. It’s Kasparov vs. Deep Blue but on a higher plane of consciousness. Blink and you lose, hesitate and you’ll find yourself out maneuvered by a younger, slicker, faster talking rival.

A combination of luck, infinite wisdom and being able to walk the fine line between truthfulness and talking bull also a prerequisite for any would be office bound, modern day gladiator. One thing is certain, more than a few champagne corks will be popped, and hastily resealed before the victor is revealed.

( Editors note – No clichés were killed or maimed during the writing of the above paragraphs – although quite a few received a severe thrashing.)

You’ve guessed it, today’s educational insight focuses on the conflict between Corporate Salesmen (& women) and Training managers. Probably the main cause of the ever-greying hair sported by sales guys is the lack of basic understanding of how to sell to Thais. There are specific courses about teaching English to Thais but nothing about how to sell to Thais – until now. Use this handy 11 point guide (the same as the 10 point guide – only 1 better ) to pinpoint what you’re doing wrong.

How to sell the Farang way

Over the course of 3 months run up a phone bill the size of one of Thaksin’s undeclared bank accounts trying to get through to the guy you want to speak to.
Finally be granted an audience when you inadvertently dial his direct line during an aborted attempt to pay your UBC bill via Bangkok Bank’s simplified phone banking payment system.
Be reluctantly granted an audience.
Spend a sleepless weekend drawing up an extensive personalized proposal detailing the blatantly obvious benefits, both long and short term, of training staff to be proficient in English.
Call to confirm the appointment only to discover that the Training manager is on holiday but will be more than happy to chat with you ‘Same time, next life’. Proceed to bombard his secretary with calls until she cracks under pressure and transfers you.
During the face to face encounter, grimace as you wish you’d deleted the oh- so-slightly risqué ‘frog and dart show’ screensaver before commencing your Powerpoint presentation.
Negotiate details.
Agree details and negotiate prices
Agree prices and renegotiate details and vice versa.
Repeat ad infinitum or until one of you backs down or is fired.
Sign the f&%$ing contract – then collapse from nervous exhaustion before you receive your commission cheque.
Now compare these agonizingly frustrating steps with those followed by a typical Thai sales executive. Note the cultural nuances that are displayed and see how insights into Thai tradition are used to gain acceptance with the potential buyer.

How to sell the Thai way

Study for a Bachelors degree.
Begin your sales career and think to yourself ” Why on earth do I need a B.A. in order to get a job selling stuff?” Decide to enroll in a course that will help you get to the top of the sales ladder.
Graduate 2nd in your class at the Academy of Excellence, The Everglades Golf Resort, Country Club and (since last month when an outdoor Jacuzzi was hastily constructed) Spa, deep in rural Bang Na.
Re-mortgage your parents’ house & buy a full set of Honmas or Calloways.
Meet the bosses of companies on the course & lose to them on the 18th hole.
Pay for them at the 19th hole. ( Non-golfers should ask for an explanation of how the Thai 19th hole differs from the Western equivalent. Clue – it involves a female caddy.)
Ask ” How much would I have to pay you in order for your company to give my language school an exclusive contract for providing English language tuition for the next 12 months?”
Over a quiet drink in a VIP room located in an ‘entertainment’ premises on Ratchadapisek Road, haggle the astronomical sum down to something around 100K & sign a contract – whilst a couple of hostesses look on in awe at the size of your bulging expense account.
For additional business with other companies, repeat from Step 2.
For exclusive lifetime contracts with aforementioned company, mention in passing to your newfound buddy that various videos of frolics, hinted at in steps 4 and 6, are in possession of a ‘friend’ and hopefully they’ll stay that way.
Use your commission cheque as down payments on ‘His n’ Her’ Benzes, safe in the knowledge that this cash cow is only beginning produce milk.
Move over Dale Carnegie.