The Five Abilities™ – selling around the world


  • VISABILITY – Being seen in the right way by the right people
  • CREDABILITY – Having superior knowledge and success
  • VIABILITY – A solution that fits both needs and readiness
  • CAPABILITY – Delivering on what the customer bought
  • RELIABILITY – Being accountable “when” things go wrong

Does The Five Abilities apply no matter where we’re doing business?  With globalization affecting all businesses, I get asked this a lot and the answer is yes.  No matter where in the world we’re selling, customers are looking for the same things to make their decisions.  We still have to focus our actions on VISABILITY, CREDABILITY, VIABILITY, CAPABILITY and RELIABILITY.

To be clear, there are very important differences when we cross borders and cultures, but our actions are more focused by having a common road map, in The Five Abilities™.  Some examples: 

VISABILITY – This is the one area of selling I’ve found pretty universal around the world.  We are visible by being uncommonly good at something or, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, Outliers.  We’re also visible by being associated with a company or group that is uncommonly good at something.  A business card that says Microsoft instantly makes one visible.  A business card that says American Bank Stationery takes some explanation.  Notably, both can result in success.  It just helps to acknowledge where we’re starting from.

CREDABILITY – Experience can lead to credibility but in some parts of the world too much experience ends up being baggage rather than benefits.  For instance, in the US age and seniority often indicates old ideas and rigidity.  In Asia, age and seniority, signals valuable wisdom and experience.  Neither is absolutely right but, again, it’s important that we know our starting point.

VIABILITY – In the US success of partnerships are often determined by short-term results.  Viable partnerships are measured on quarterly results, driven by how we report financial performance to the investment community.  In Asia, partnerships are undertaken with the expectation that we’re together for the long-term.  Therefore, strong personal relationships are a prerequisite to successful viability because people want to know that they’re dealing with people and companies in it for the long haul.

CAPABILITY – Saying we can do something with aggressive conviction is seen as confidence and capability in many western countries.  In many parts of Asia the same statements can be seen as bluster and arrogance.  As the saying goes, talk is cheap… and in many Asian cultures it’s worthless.  Results, sometimes to a fault, are the only way to prove CAPABILITY in Asia.  Results are also called for in the US but actions are often rewarded even if they don’t produce long-term results.

RELIABILITY – In the US reliability is largely about what we do after something goes wrong.  In Asia, reliability is more about what we do and how good we are at preventing things from going wrong.  In the US, customer service is about how nicely we’re treated after our mobile phone service goes down.  In Japan and Singapore, customer service is about making sure the mobile phone service is never interrupted.  Again, neither is perfect or completely right, but it’s important to know the business culture in which we’re selling.

Focusing actions on the five things that customers look for when making buying decisions, is applicable no matter where we are.  We just need to understand how the business culture wants to experience VISABILITY, CREDABILITY, VIABILITY, CAPABILITY and RELIABILITY so we can execute on The Five Abilities™ no matter where we’re selling.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™ with contributions from Alex Wai Choon Butt, Dennis Su and Jane Cui


Winning Lifelong Customers with The Five Abilities