These differences in mentality between France and the United States

by bold-lichterman

I have been working for American companies for more than 6 years, I have always wondered why American salespeople made on average 3 times more turnover than Sales in France. I first thought to myself that it was due to the size of the country and its gigantic economy (even if it is true that having within a radius of 20km the world headquarters of Facebook, Linkedin, Salesforce “and co ”can help the business…) and then I finally asked my CEO to send me a few weeks there to understand the phenomenon.

So I had the opportunity to follow our Sales teams based in California and Texas for more than three weeks. The objective was to capture good practices, discuss their issues and above all, draw up a concrete assessment of the differences between sales “Made in France” and “Made in America”. This article is not intended to do “French Bashing” or praise the Americans but to provide some avenues for reflection …

I don’t want to see anyone at the office: Speaking with our VP West US, I quickly realized that doing “attendance” at the office was not part of local customs. The relationship between office presence and productivity is completely reversed in American mentalities. Sales people must spend their time with their customers and partners in order to keep collaborations alive. The “Work from Home”, which is still too often perceived in France as a threat, becomes a real balance between professional and personal life in the US… the office therefore becomes only an administrative crossing point.

Support new arrivals: The employee’s path of arrival in the company will define his history in the company. Where a standard program will be common in France, the emphasis in the US is on personalized sessions and practical cases directly in the field with clients. A coach is delegated within the company to support this transition period, until the newcomer is fully autonomous. Follow-ups are carried out frequently to ensure that the employee is in the right direction. In France, the manager often has the habit of “sending the new kid on the train” without necessarily worrying about the content and the learning dynamics.

The positivity of the message: Awesome“-“Great Question“-“Amazing»- So much enthusiasm for banal words that often make us smile in France. And yet… it may seem overrated, but the positive dynamics that ensue will impact an entire band. This state of mind is also directly felt by the customer, to the benefit of all. Positivity is like happiness, it’s contagious.

Leadership: The contrast between the “speakers»Americans, seemingly open and relaxed, and speakers French, more conventional, is often striking – we see the incentive given from school to speak in public. One of my colleagues based in Los Angeles told me that she prepared her 5 year old daughter on Sunday evening, because on Monday morning she had to speak in front of the class and explain what she had done on the weekend. Speaking in France is often a source of tension, becoming an excellent “speakerDoes not happen overnight.


Can we talk to each other ?: You, you, you? The familiarity allows you to get closer to your customers by treating them as individuals and not as roles, this linguistic advantage is invaluable in the first meetings. In France, we are very happy when we talk to one of our customers… I have the impression that it would be easier in the US to talk with the CEO of a company of 500 million than in France with your boy next door.

Be careful not to miss: This is nothing new, in the US, failure is perceived in a radically different way – on the model of certain start-ups in Silicon Valley which only recruit people who have failed in creating their business. A man who has tried and failed is someone who has an experience, a story and who can change it in a new environment… “What have you missed in your life?” and above all “what lesson (s) did you learn?” this is one of the questions that comes up most often in job interviews in the US … slightly more interesting than the famous million question asked by hundreds of recruiters in France … “Madam / Sir, hello, what are your points strengths / weaknesses? ”.

The rigidity of the legislation: We may go as far as possible, the cliché of the French union-striker drinking his coffee on the terrace sticks to our skin. Excessive? Yes, certainly, but this very rigid French employment contract scares international companies wishing to invest in France. Because of this complexity, the recruitment processes in France are longer and more costly for the company… A sales director of a cloud company told me: “he must manage to get into the head that more than one in two recruitments is a casting error. With this flexibility of American labor law, we leave ourselves the option of separating if that does not suit and it works both ways. ”

In search of “theEarly Adopt“: The physiognomy of employees has split into two in recent years: on the one hand the traditional ones (who are afraid of change) and on the other, the “Early Adopters” (who dare and test new solutions without worrying about the “legacy»… Real disruptors). Americans adore these profiles, which they poach at a high price by offering them structure and means to make this creativity fruitful. More and more companies in France are building “Labs” to detect and test innovations and transform, we are in the right direction!


Speaking of disruption, it is well known that Americans love good stories… the proof is with this reality TV show “Shark TankWhich aims to detect innovation and show a whole people that nothing is impossible.

Glad to have your point of view on the subject… France remains a fantastic country with internationally recognized talents but it is time to change some good old habits.


After a few years in the Forrester firm, supporting CAC40 companies on digital transformation, Nicolas capitoni joins Masergy to take charge of Southern Europe. He is currently based in London and is a member of the digital transformation committee of MEDEF in Paris.

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