Originally published on the Chamber of Commerce website.
Is your business expanding internationally? You’ve probably heard the term globalization in the news lately, as business leaders stress the importance of global markets for domestic companies.
Especially for small to medium enterprises, the ability to tap international markets for revenue could be the essential step that launches the organization.
However, hasty attempts to enter any foreign market can quickly end in failure without a solid strategy in place. Beware the many cultural, religious, and social differences that exist when crossing borders and continents.
The ability to communicate effectively with global counterparts will play a giant role in your success, so keep the following keys in mind when developing your global business strategy.
Make a good first impression
We have all heard about the importance of making a good first impression, as it can have a profound effect on future communications. Best practices often suggest:
- Being clean, well groomed, and appropriately dressed
- Keeping open body language – use positive facial expressions (smile!) and posture
- Speaking appropriately – control tone of voice, rate of speech, and complexity of words
- Having a firm but welcoming handshake
- Knowing your material well – have answers ready for whatever questions may arise
Making a good first impression is the first step towards building your relationship. Starting off in a good light can increase the effectiveness of further communications, because you have already created familiarity and an element of trust.
In many global cases, this requires doing research before you ever meet or interact with a client. Understanding the culture and society of your contacts could be the most important part in building your relationship.
Cultural respect – Perhaps your best selling tool
It seems commonsense to show respect to the cultures of prospective partners, but what exactly does that entail? The answer can vary widely, depending on which part of the globe is in question.
That’s precisely why it’s important to research the culture and society of your new market thoroughly, before your first business interactions. Particularly important in Asia, but also in many other parts of the world, showing respect to the rich heritage and culture of a nation could be the closer in terms of building a trustworthy relationship.
Here are some general ways to show cultural respect, all of which may require doing a little research:
- Simply be aware of their culture; familiarize with local landmarks, current events, political figures, important dates, etc.
- Learn common sounds and pronunciations of the language
- Familiarize with customary greetings, such as bowing
- Understand religious practices
- Try the local cuisine
If you’re traveling on business, take the time to complement your clients. A small comment about how you enjoy the city, food, or culture could better their opinions of you.
Create familiarity (and trust)
For most businesses, creating familiarity is also critical for strengthening your relationship with international partners. First off, a very important aspect of creating familiarity is repetition, so if possible, don’t limit the number of interactions between you and a potential partner.
Make it easy for others to communicate with you. Which methods are preferred? Is conference calling the standard, or will they feel more comfortable with email or Skype? Give your contacts multiple options to get in touch.
Secondly, follow through. Follow through on your promises and let people know they can count on you. Every time they have a question, you have an answer, or can get the answer to them quickly. Be the go-to guy or gal. If you consistently follow through, your clients’ trust, and hopefully their business, will not be far behind.
Ultimately, the ability to communicate effectively with global counterparts can highly depend on the first impression you make, and the trust and familiarity you build. Be aware of and pay respect to their culture, and don’t forget to do your homework.