Common Mistakes Made By Salespeople in Thailand

Over the course of my many years spent in Thailand, I’ve been involved with selling many different things from financial services and offshore investments to advertisement space, imported seafood, and medicine. I’ve worked with Thai businessmen, Japanese businessmen, other expats, and businessmen from all over the world – a story that is echoed among most foreign businessmen in Thailand and is not unique only to me. What you will find, interestingly enough, is that sales strategies that don’t work in western countries work very well in Asia, regardless of the background of the sales target. Before I get into that, here are some things I see a lot of companies doing that rarely, if ever, work:

Business Meetup Groups & Networking

Most of the attendees are more clueless than you are and have no idea what they really want. All they want is to go do some ‘business networking’, which doesn’t really make sense if you think about it. Serious businessmen with an established business would never attend these, and you will certainly not find high quality leads if you are a salesperson. Avoid them like the plague.

Government Commerce Departments 

Never ever trust governments for anything. A lot of them attempt to help businesses set up by offering to find local partners or ‘introduce’ potential customers, but they provide nothing but false hope. Remember, they have absolutely zero incentive to help you, other than being a nice person helping a fellow citizen. I have worked with companies that wasted years relying on government promises only to end up worse off than where they began. Do the work on your own. Your competitors are, and there is no easy solution.

Tapping Into Networks Of Your Foreigner Friends 

This strategy is hit and miss. Granted, there are some good foreign businessmen with strong networks, in particular high ranking expats from international companies. Understand, however, that this is an exceptionally small minority. Most foreign businessmen play in the small business field and are actually a lot worse off than they look. Their leads are usually dead ends and it is better if you make your own.


The above strategies rarely bear fruit but from my experience, here are better tactics that yield better results that are immediately measurable:

Cold Calling

This is an old school tactic financiers have been using in Western countries for many years. Westerners have gotten sick of it and it is more of an annoyance than anything nowadays. In Asia, however, nobody does it. On the other hand, when you do, you are met with a notably positive response as many are surprised to receive a sales call out of the blue. I’ve created an entire book of a business in Bangkok, using just cold calling, and I can tell you this is a great way to reach out to clients that your competitors cannot. Be prepared for rejection however, as that is part of the game.

Expanding a bit on the above, you will have to create your own sense of style in sales. Generally, I rarely pitch business over the phone. My cold calls are usually to build rapport and set up a meeting to pitch. I find a much higher rate of acceptance when pitching face to face as your personal charm adds character to your advantage. If you are not a charming person and find yourself to be generally hated, then perhaps you’d better pitch over the phone rather than in person, but never, ever send your pitch over email. I don’t mean anything sarcastic by that statement; certain personas and appearances bode better than others depending on culture and country.

Knocking On Doors

Some of the biggest and best clients I’ve gotten were by simply going out to offices and knocking on doors. In Asian culture, it is general practice to set up appointments rather than just showing up to offices, but more often than not you will be received even without one. This is equivalent to joining networking meetups in the sense that you are going out and meeting strangers, but the leads you get in doing this are all focused, high quality, and in position to purchase something.

Get Local 

Build trustworthy relationships with local businessmen and not just foreigners. Not just on a friendly basis, but really get to know and socialize with them. This entails understanding the local culture and at least making some effort to learn the language. If you happen to possess a brain that is incapable of absorbing language, as some people do, learn to speak slowly, simply, and clearly. Having strong connections in the Thai crowd is far more advantageous than foreign ones and business contacts expand very quickly. The local businessmen typically have a lot more leverage in decision making, particularly in negotiations and processes involving governments, and have larger budgets to work with than most people think.