International Customers

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Urban Times September 2013.

Tips For Dealing With International Customers


Over the years I have dealt with almost every nationality you can think of and have found most people react well to these simple principals.
  1. Honesty
  2. Clarity in communication and frequency thereof
  3. Respect for their nationality, religion or other doctrine
  4. Effort to deliver what you promise even if at times things get in the way
  5. Effort to speak, at least some of the time, in their language or a language that they understand. For English speakers this is made easier by English being the international business language which is often used, even when in Russia or China.

It is not unusual to hear a Russian, Chinese and say an Arab all conversing in English. It will almost certainly be the second language for all of them.

For exporters from the United States, Canada and the UK this often makes life easier but it should be remembered that international etiquette requires that even a few words in your customers own language will be well received and elevate you and your business in their minds, providing that the other points I make above are also considered and applied.

We live in a global marketplace with international trade becoming ever more important as everyone looks toward selling to the tiger economies such as China, Asia generally, and Brazil. All these markets have dimension and huge populations hungry for goods and services.

My advice is to try to learn 50 words of any language where you are targeting your efforts. It’s not difficult if you think about it. 50 words of Russian and 50 words of Chinese should be enough to ensure that your customer feels you have made an effort. It doesn’t matter that you are not fluent or even proficient to a conversational level, but it does matter that you try.

I am in St Tropez as I write this and despite the area being a melting pot of international culture it remains peculiarly French, albeit with every language you can think of being spoken in the Town. I notice this year that there are more Russians than ever before and I have been coming here every summer for thirty years.

When I first visited Moscow very few Muscovites spoke English but on my last visit it seemed nearly everyone did, even in newsagents.

I have found that people are pretty much the same the world over, of course they have religious and cultural differences but despite this they remain similar. Most want a better standard of living for their children than they had themselves and really just want peace, harmony and prosperity. People deal with people they like so the easier you are to deal with and the more friendly and pleasant your approach the more likely you are to land that contract to supply.

Another tip worth considering is the translation of documents. We prefer for all documents to be translated from English into the language of our customer and not the other way around. Our reason for this is that anything lost in translation is more likely to be in our favour than theirs which in the event of a legal dispute makes life easier. I learned this lesson many years ago when selling French Real Estate.

Always offer to send documentation for your prospective customer to consider before they send you theirs, this way you have more chance of yours being used for the official documentation. Have everything translated into both languages but with the emphasis from English and not the other way around.

International trade has enormous benefits and delivers unprecedented opportunity to business people from The USA, Canada & The UK because many new world countries see products and services created in those countries as up market and reliable.

My advice when considering venturing into selling overseas is to try and focus on a market where the buyer speaks the same language as you do. This of course is becoming more difficult but nonetheless it is worth considering.

It is much easier for example for a company from the USA to sell goods to someone in the UK than someone in Papa New Guinea for obvious reasons but if this isn’t practical then learn a few words of you prospective customers language and learn about the country itself by reading information off the web. Not just facts and figures to do with export but things like educational aspirations of a developing nation or idiosyncrasies of a developed one such as France or Italy.

Understanding your customer is vital in any sales environment but never more so than in international trade.

I have dealt with almost every nationality you can think of over the years and have found most people react well to the simple principles laid out.
Original article for the Urban Times September 2013.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *