4 min read –
The first time I heard the expression “in a timely manner” was in one of my first business trips to India, in the early 2010s.
“What on earth is that supposed to mean!?” I was then thinking.
Well, it can mean several different things, like
whenever you want
whenever you have time
and that ambiguity is a problem in business.
If a customer tells you that he will sign your contract “in a timely manner”, then good luck in explaining to your boss when exactly that will be.
In Asia, time is a polychronic concept (circular, multitask).
For Western minds, educated with and using a monochronic (linear) time system, this is always a challenge.
And languages add to the complexity.
For example, in Indonesian Bahasa, “besok” means “tomorrow”.
It also means “in a few days”. But it does not tell you how many days.
In Chinese, “deng yi xia” is also a tricky one.
I remember, in Taiwan, late 1990s, I got mad because I was asking several times “when shall we leave”, and the answer was, several times, “wait a moment”.
It drove me crazy.
Yes, “deng yi xia” is “wait a moment” in Chinese, but it also means “later soon”.
Whether monochronic or polychronic, time has always been a universal fascinating concept.
The management and control of time for strategic purposes is thousands of years old.
Take the Sun Tzu.
About 2300 years ago in China, a lineage of military leaders put their collective wisdom into written form for the first time.
Their text was to shape the strategic thinking of all East Asia.
It offered a radically new perspective to conflict whereby one might attain victory without going to battle.
This text known as the Art of War in the West is called the Sun Tzu in China, named for the patriarch of their lineage.
We find the importance of timing at the end of chapter 3 “Strategy of Attack”:
Knowing victory is fivefold:
Superior and inferior desiring the same
Knowing the use of the many and the few
Knowing WHEN one can and cannot do battle
Being prepared and awaiting for the unprepared
The general being capable, the ruler not interfering
Back to our century.
Many companies communicate with themselves at the center, the world turning around them.
They publish their team-building events, ESG or CSR initiatives, attendance at exhibitions, patents, awards, internal promotion, and so forth.
This can be fine.
Those companies tend to believe that their customers are also part of the objects turning around them.
That is a mistake.
The customers have their worlds turning around them.
A supplier is a commodity.
So when those 2 galaxies get closer, if no one wants to adjust and synchronize, then there will be no engagement and no business.
This is an early phase of invisible negotiations.
The seller and buyer don’t know each other yet. There is no project, no trade, no communication.
However, in reality, in silence, a negotiation has already started.
A negotiation to control time and timing.
Who will accept to adjust and follow the other party’s timing?
A supplier should always adjust to a buyer because the client is king.
This is not to say that we have to do anything the client asks.
But we have to remember that it is the client who decides who his supplier will be.
So, as a supplier, we have to be part of the client’s world and play by his timing, not the way around.
It is amazing to see big international corporations who consider that if a customer has a project or a need, he will call them.
I heard these exact words directly from the CEO of a Western corporation last year.
I was so amazed that someone so brilliant, experienced, and smart could be so …wrong.
Please consider this kind reminder :
Customers don’t call.
Customers are called.
Sometimes the most basic business principles must be reminded, surprisingly.
There is also a practical reason why sellers must synchronize to the buyer’s timing.
Buyers prepare their yearly budget expenditures at a specific window time each year.
So you must consider this window time for your sales action plan.
It is like seasons, who is going out to harvest in winter?
I see companies losing opportunities and business because they act when THEY are ready, not when the customer is ready.
I hear some VPs say that they don’t have enough resources, or that they have other higher priorities, or some other excuses to hide their negligence.
When your target market or your target customer sends you a crystal clear signal that a door is open, you must go THEN, with whatever force you have in hand.
It is like when you play Chess, at some point, you see a position suitable for you to attack.
Then you pause and think: ” My attack would be more efficient if I had my knight and my bishop closer to the attack location”.
So you delay your attack, you move and gather your forces near the attack point.
Then you realize that the moment has passed and is gone.
The opponent has moved as well and the situation is not suitable for that attack anymore.
If your business is great and you don’t need to attract new customers, congratulations.
However, in the long-term this strategy is dangerous.
If you are a normal company, i.e. looking for customers, we suggest:
Synchronise to your customer’s timing, adjust to him, be one of his satellites
Do not expect your customer to turn around you and be your satellite
Call your customer, and do not expect him to call you.
If your target customers are in Indonesia, we can do this for you.
You don’t need to learn Bahasa Indonesia or Javanese.
You don’t need to fly to Jakarta or Nusantara.
We will manage your clients here.
In a timely manner.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your strategy and increase your sales in Indonesia.
Sun Tzu is about way more than time management, it is wisdom for business and personal life.
We recommend a nice website on this topic to learn more: https://www.rulesofvictory.com/
(no affiliation with Cintasia)