How To Build Trust With International Customers

Successfully selling in foreign markets requires more than product knowledge and sales skills. Building trust is a critical component of closing deals. Let's explore key strategies that salespeople can employ to effectively build trust with international customers and thrive in foreign markets.
salespeople build trust with international customers

Succeeding in international sales requires more than just a good product or service. It demands the ability to build trust with international customers from diverse cultures. Cultivating trust forms the foundation for long-lasting relationships and repeat business, but achieving and maintaining this can be challenging when dealing with different cultural backgrounds. In this article, we will explore key strategies and tips that salespeople can employ to effectively build trust with international customers and thrive in foreign markets.

Understanding The Different Types Of Trust

Before delving into trust-building strategies, it’s essential to understand the two main types of trust: general trust and assurance-based trust. General trust is instinctual and involves trusting someone until they prove you wrong. On the other hand, assurance-based trust relies on evidence or performance, where trust is earned through demonstrated reliability and competence.

The type of trust encountered largely depends on the cultural background of your customer. For example, in cultures that value results and deadlines, such as the United States, customers expect you to showcase your company’s track record and achievements before placing their trust in you and your products. Here you can build assurance-based trust.

Conversely, in cultures like India, where personal relationships and rapport hold great importance, building connections through small talk and socializing becomes paramount. Investing time in relationship-building activities like social events, networking, and genuinely getting to know your customers on a personal level will go a long way in establishing general trust.

Balancing Relationship-Oriented and Task-Oriented Approaches

Trust can also be distinguished by contrasting the relationship-oriented approach with the task-oriented approach. Some cultures prioritise relationships over facts, placing greater importance on human interactions. Trust is built through socializing, networking, and showing genuine interest in the person behind the business. For example, in France, going out for drinks and dinner is a common way to build rapport and trust with customers.

In other cultures, trust is more task-oriented, depending on the quality and outcome of your work. Trust is established by delivering on promises, meeting deadlines, and providing value. For instance, in Germany, being punctual, professional, and efficient is a key way to build credibility and trust with customers.

Expressing And Earning Trust Appropriately

What you also need to know is that different cultures have distinct ways of expressing and earning trust. For instance, in Arab cultures, oral agreements hold significant weight and respect. Requesting a written contract immediately after a verbal agreement might offend your customer and undermine trust. In Japan, loyalty and commitment are highly valued. Frequent changes in jobs or working for multiple companies might be seen as unreliable and untrustworthy, so don’t mention previous employers and rather speak about how you identify with your current employer.

Researching and understanding these expectations of the culture you are dealing with is crucial when building trust with international customers. Taking the time to understand the values and beliefs of a target culture allows you to navigate potential pitfalls when trying to build a relationship with potential customers.

Tailoring Communication Styles

Tailoring your communication style to align with your customers’ cultural preferences is also essential. Some cultures value directness and assertiveness, while others prioritize indirect communication and harmony. Adapting your language, tone, and non-verbal cues to create a comfortable and relatable experience is what it takes to build trust with international customers.

Storytelling and humour can be powerful tools to build trust in some cultures. Stories help illustrate your points, share experiences, and also create emotional connections. Humour can break the ice, reduce tension, and show your human side. However, it is crucial to avoid humour that might be offensive or inappropriate for the culture you are dealing with. Focus on using relevant, positive, and self-deprecating humor that resonates with the situation.

Storytelling and humour work best with relationship-oriented cultures where you have to show your personality to build trust. But don’t overuse it with cultures that are more task-oriented and would prefer facts, numbers and details to your stories.

Helping Your Customers Achieve Their Goals

Another approach to building trust with international customers is to genuinely inquire about how you can assist your customers in achieving their goals or solving their problems. This works well in many different cultures, the ones that rely on good relationships but also the ones that prefer reliable information, facts and results.

By demonstrating a sincere interest in your customers’ needs and offering your assistance or advice, you showcase that you care about their success rather than just making a sale. Also, this approach reinforces the notion that you are committed to adding value to their situation, fostering trust and loyalty.

Utilising Educational Resources

In today’s digital age, leveraging educational resources such as videos and articles can significantly contribute to building trust with international customers. By providing useful information related to your product or service, you position yourself as an expert in your field. These resources can help customers make informed decisions, acquire new skills, and gain valuable insights. Sharing educations resources works well with customers who are task-oriented.

But customers who build trust through relationships might value videos and articles that showcase your success stories with customers who have similar needs or challenges. This approach allows potential customers to see the positive impact you have had on others, boosting their confidence in your offerings because they trust more in what people say than facts and figures on paper.

The Time And Effort Required

Building trust, particularly in international sales, is not a process that happens overnight. It demands time, effort, and a genuine commitment to understanding cultural factors and applying different communication styles. Consistency and reliability are paramount in maintaining trust once established. By consistently delivering on your promises, providing exceptional service, and continually demonstrating your expertise, you solidify your reputation as a trusted partner with customers that are fact-oriented and rely on assurances. Keep in mind that trust-building with relationship-oriented customers is an ongoing endeavor that requires lots of personal attention and investment in conversations and social activities.


Successfully selling in international markets requires more than just product knowledge and sales skills. Building trust is a critical component of sales success. By understanding the types of trust, adapting to cultural norms, balancing relationship and task-oriented approaches, tailoring communication styles, and utilizing a variety of resources, salespeople can foster strong and lasting relationships with international customers. Remember, building trust takes time and effort, but the rewards are substantial—long-term partnerships, repeat business, and a great reputation in the global marketplace.

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