Early in 2001, SMEI began to study the possibilities of launching the association in P.R. China, and 6 years later, fruits of that labor are manifest as SMEI officially launched its professional certification programs for sales and marketing on April 2, 2007 at a formal agreement signing in Beijing. The long road to Beijing included extensive market research, consultation and many hours of negotiation and relationship building with SMEI’s new partner, the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs.
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, China’s reform period has paved the way for both indigenous associations and those linked to their U.S. or international counterparts to begin operations in a country that has evolved into a world power with an emerging open economy. However, for all its promise, China is not an easy market to penetrate. Language and cultural barriers, governmental processes, along with financial and legal complexities are all obstacles that have been deemed insurmountable for some who seek to do business there.
There is no nation or business entity in the world today that is not directly or indirectly affected by China. China’s insatiable demand for financial and material resources is literally gobbling up the world’s supplies. Professional development, a key offering provided through SMEI’s certification programs, is in high demand. Many associations are busy developing strategy to better serve this market or querying how to do so. According to a recent article published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Western associations need to be innovative and have recourse to the single most important factor for success in China: guanxi (pronounced gwan-shee), a kind of social capital accruing from one’s personal network of influence. As SMEI has learned, China is a culture of relationships. Foreign entities who wish to succeed need to choose a Chinese partner that has guanxi, and the relationships needed to help launch an endeavor successfully.
SMEI’s collaboration with the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) is based on a sound working agreement to conduct training programs in China that will prepare candidates to successfully complete their certification exams for sales, sales management and marketing. SAFEA’s sincere desire to develop a high standard for the sales and marketing profession in China, coupled with their strong track record of developing the U.S. based project management certification makes them the ideal partner for SMEI.
Working together, SMEI and SAFEA will conduct “Train the Trainer” programs this year using foreign experts selected by SMEI. Following this training, educational classes will be setup at authorized training facilities throughout China to prepare applicants for their certification exams. The educational programs will be conducted in the Chinese language, using translated versions of SMEI approved sales, sales management and marketing management based textbooks by leading U.S. authors.
A growing need for professional certification programs is the result of demand for a skilled workforce. With over 1.3 billion people and few opportunities for university education, professional certification programs help raise quality and efficiency, and ensure that the growing demand for workers employed by foreign-owned companies will be met. China’s culture places a premium on hard work, self-improvement, and learning, characteristics and as result many professional certification, training, and educational programs offered are now oversubscribed.
The Chinese government has taken a pragmatic approach in partnering with SMEI, recognizing the need of a market economy to reach out to global leaders in areas such as standardization, credentialing and workplace professional development.
Members of SMEI’s delegation to Beijing on April 2, 2007 included: Nathalie Roemer, CSE, Chair, designee 2007-2008); Melissa Medley, CME, Chair, Certified Marketing & Sales Professionals; Willis Turner, CAE CSE, President & CEO; Gerard Edwards, CME CSE, Director of Education; and Susan Warren, CSE, SMEI Akron Executive Director.