International Trade With Russia
There are 3 keys to success — good marketing, accessing to professional language services and an understanding of the Russian business culture. By following these rules you will have great success there.
The bedrock of exporting success in Russia is thorough market research. Unfortunately, Russians are hesitant at revealing business information, so there is little in the public domain. Therefore, all good research is done in the country.
Russians are wary of unsolicited business approaches, especially in English. They would need to pay for a translation, so your message would most likely end up in the bin. All communications must be in Russian from the outset, although it is initially acceptable to send a brochure in English with separate translations of the important sentences with your introduction letter. The way your company is perceived will depend on the quality of your interpreter. Being able to say a few words in Russian always pays dividends in social situations, but when it comes to business discussions, there is no substitute for a professional interpreter. When visiting Russia for negotiations, hire your own interpreter. It costs more, but owning the translation process means that you can be less manipulated by the other side and you will be able to refer back to them for further clarification should the need arise.
The Russian business culture is more Asian in origin than European. It is based on the number and quality of personal contacts rather than on trade data and state support. Networking is very important. You should be well dressed and well groomed. No matter what gender, a smart suit and good quality accessories are essential. Body piercings are definitely frowned upon, and gentlemen with earrings may not be taken seriously. Simple courtesy goes a long way in Russia. But if you buy a bouquet of flowers for your partner’s wife, bring an odd number of blooms as even numbers are for funerals! Although things are changing, Russians generally view meetings as serious occasions, especially outside of the larger cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg. Meetings may be long and drawn out, where ideas are expressed, though often no agreements are reached. Don’t worry if at first they seem stiff. If they can see the benefit of working with you, the ice will be broken, and they will become warmer, but don't force it. Always send your senior people. Russian organizations are strictly hierarchical. To send a project manager, no matter how gifted, to meet a company director is a huge breach of protocol. Russian managers are highly educated and will expect the same from us. They will not hesitate at delving into the fine technical detail of your product, so be prepared. Know your stuff or take along a member of your technical team. Russia is not a difficult market; it is just different, and there are opportunities in most sectors.