International business tips

May 16th, 2006

Lee’s list of 7 quick and essential tips for doing business overseas.

1. It is always easier to sell in your town, state, or country than to export or sell internationally. Understand that it will always be that way.

2. Don’t do it alone. Always get local “guide(s)” to work with you. This can take the form of a consultant, agent, distributor or sales force.

3. You will always feel that the customer in the international market got the better deal.

4. No matter how well you think you understand the country and culture….there is always something important that you missed.

5. Be humble…..be humble……be humble

6. Listen before you start to sell. My first 3 trips to China consisted of meeting and listening to potential customers before opening up the discussion to sales.

7. Make a concerted effort to build and nuture personal networks and relationships. Learn about the country, culture and politics.

June 2007

5 responses

25 03 2007
Eric Joiner

Nice list. My experience is much the same. Also when you are told that the head man does not speak English, most of the time he can or may not speak it well. However I have found that if you make a joke, especially a self deprecating one, you will get a smile….clear indication that some the guy DOES speak English!

I’ve been known to take Anglo associates with me, who speak Mandarin or Cantonese…and we don’t tell. Very interesting what you can pick up after the meeting.

Best regards
Eric

22 05 2008
Golf Club Rental

Great site Lee!

24 05 2008
Mohamed

how can we get the Mexican Moble Numbering Ranges?

25 06 2008
Stefania Williams

Great article!

Here are my tips on international communication

My top tips for international communications

By Stefania De Angelis Williams
Managing Director, Williams Language Solutions Ltd
http://www.translate-it.org

Think internationally from the start.
If you reach out to the world with your export strategy and via your website, your hope is that the rest of the world will then respond in some way: get prepared for it, and plan ahead a comprehensive language marketing strategy – if your company has its eye on markets abroad.

Plan a language marketing strategy.
The strategy should determine, for example, what Company literature should be translated (press releases, promotional material, user manuals, catalogues, etc.), which parts of the website need to be localized, and in which languages, what intercultural communications needs should be addressed (business etiquette training, language courses, etc.), if oral transfer of information (interpreting) is needed, etc. Companies which find the answers to these questions and are respondent to this challenge are more likely to benefit from opportunities in international markets.

Resist the temptation to DIY.
Translation errors could make you laugh (from “deep fired salmon” in a Polish restaurant, to “leave your values at reception” on a French hotel sign), but these mistakes could costs the marketers sales and confidence. A professional translator should always be consulted before deciding for a brand name of a logo to be marketed abroad. Gerber – the name of a baby food maker – is a word for vomiting in French. A bit limiting when going global. Phonetics issues should also be considered carefully. Invest in translation talent.

Which English is the language of international business?
Offshore English is the universal language spoken largely by non-native speakers off the shores of Britain (or indeed the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and other countries where English is the mother tongue). Other languages influence it (“mother tongue interference”), nevertheless, offshore English is the language of international business. If your foreign contacts speak English, use simple sentences and plain terminology to make them feeling comfortable. Remember that it’s not their mother tongue, and they are making an effort for you. Also, if something they say “does not sound right”, ask for a clarification immediately, to avoid misunderstanding. This could be caused by a mother tongue interference. For example, “I have a hunger” simply means “I am hungry”..

Learn the basic cultural differences.
Invest some time learning a few words in the language of your interlocutors. Greeting your host in his/her own language will be a great ice-breaking start. Don’t worry about getting the perfect accent, just show that you made an effort and you are cultural aware. Knowing the main differences in introductions are vital to attune with your interlocutor, and simple faux pas can sink you. Calling your Italian contact with his/her first name, for example, could offend him/her unintentionally.
Learning about business etiquette, rather than reading information from a tourist point of view, will prepare you to deal effectively with cultural differences. In our guide of doing business abroad, we explain best ways to make contact, host a meeting, enjoy a meal or visit offices abroad. The knowledge of cultural differences is also important when meeting foreign guests at home and when training individuals from different nationalities.

Explode stereotypes.
Stereotypes are images or ideas we all have of a country and a culture, for example, the sausage stalls in Germany, the baguettes in France, the chess in Russia. While a “typical image” of a country is easy to remember, nevertheless you have to approach stereotypes with some scepticism, otherwise you risk to keep an idea of a country which could be misleading. In our guides, we present stereotype to use effectively, and which ones to avoid.

We live in an increasingly heterogeneous society.
International communications ability is also important for companies during interviews and recruitment process involving individuals from different cultural backgrounds, and for any business employing workforce from foreign countries. According to the “International Migration Report 2002” of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the number of migrants has doubled since the 1970s. The report also says that around 175 million persons are residing away from the country of their birth and one in every 10 persons in the developed regions is a migrant. Also, more migrants are coming from countries ever farther away. While the reasons for migration vary (economic, political, personal choice), one thing is sure: we live in an increasingly heterogeneous society.

And remember: if you don’t get culturally prepared, it’s most likely your competitors will: get ahead of the competition by learning how to speak Culturese!

References:
1) Dos and Don’ts when doing business abroad (how to speak Culturese), available from Williams Language Solutions Ltd, http://www.translate-it.org ($15.99 + P&P)
2) Client Side News Magazine, March issue (www.clientsidenews.com)
3) Basic International Communications for Business, Invest Northern Ireland http://www.investni.com

24 09 2008
Jonathan Bernd

Great tips. My experience and initial tips are very similar:
1) Tell yourself you don’t understand at the outset.
2) Identify community figures to interview. (E.g. the leader, the gatekeeper, the rebel, the “average joe” etc.)
3) Remember they are your teacher. You are not their teacher.
4) Don’t try to put their descriptions into your cultural box for judgment. Instead try to get inside “their cultural judgment box”. (This is the essence of being bilingual and bicultural).
5) One two week trip will make you more liable to jump to conclusions than no visit – especially with little experience.
6) Start by interviewing nationals from your “target community” who live in your country.
7) Reflect conclusions back to interviewees for review.

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