Poland - Commercial Guide
Selling Factors and Techniques

Identifies common practices to be aware of when selling in this market, e.g., whether all sales material need to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

As stated previously, the Polish market is in most cases regional and this description applies to selling as well.  Because unemployment is lower and the average income is higher in Polish cities, urban dwellers generally have more purchasing power than inhabitants of rural areas. The countryside is dotted with single -factory towns, many of which currently suffer from higher unemployment rates. 

Websites and e-mails are effective tools to introduce a product or service to a Polish company.  Communication in Polish is recommended if the seller would like to receive a speedy reply. U.S. companies should ensure that translations from English into Polish are performed only by proficient translators who are fluent in modern business Polish and grammar. 

An average Polish customer no longer requires face-to-face contact with a person selling a product. The role of the internet in securing business contacts is growing and can now be considered a valuable selling tool. Over 82% of Polish homes have internet access, 48% of them buy on-line.  The number of banking customers who actively use internet banking services reached 78%. 

American companies that are little known outside the U.S. may need to make a significant effort (often marketing, training, or other promotional activities) to convince the prospective Polish customer of their credibility. Product demonstrations are effective, as Poles tend to be skeptical about claims until they are proven. Sponsored visits to the U.S. company headquarters or manufacturing plant frequently help to convince Polish buyers to purchase a U.S. product. 

The decision-making process, especially in large companies or government agencies, can be painfully slow, as every person or section involved in a decision usually must sign off before a decision is made. It may take several meetings and many rounds of negotiations before a deal is closed. This means that success in Poland is difficult without an in-country presence, whether that presence is an agent, distributor, or representative office. 

Polish customers will want to discuss the technical parameters of the product, explain their needs, and negotiate the price. In addition, the product may not be sold at the first meeting, as the customer will want some time to consider the points discussed and to arrange financing.  Initial orders are frequently small due to Poles access to limited amounts of working capital and high interest rates on credit. Follow-on sales often grow rapidly once product effectiveness and profitability are established. 

Many Polish firms complain that access to capital is a problem. This is a particularly acute problem for small and medium size businesses.  Most Polish firms are too small to consider going public or to issue commercial paper so business activities, including payment for imports, are usually self-financed.  American companies that can arrange for affordable financing for their Polish customers will have an edge over their competitors.  The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) offers a credit insurance program that can help small and medium sized U.S. firms in this regard. 

If a prospective customer shows continued effort and interest in dialogue, the potential for a sale is good, even if the time leading up to the conclusion of a contract seems long by U.S. standards.  If the proposal is well thought out, pricing is flexible (or assistance with financing is offered), and includes promotion, servicing and customer support, chances are good that the sale will ultimately be completed.  Doing business in Poland is built upon personal relationships and trust. U.S. companies have an advantage in Poland, as the United States, its people and products, are generally held in high regard.