Why Foreign Material May Be Inhibiting the Performance of Your Foreign Distributors

Tips for ensuring effective communication during internationalisation

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With the rise of English as the global language of business, more and more are using it to converse with overseas clients. But what happens when global companies try to sell the concept of their products to their foreign distributors in English? I bet sales managers don’t know that a wise man once said ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart’. This wise man was Nelson Mandela — the powerful influencer and negotiation guru. His words stem from the Foreign Language Effect theory — the idea that talking to overseas clients in their native language is key to closing more business deals.

Whilst, most UK companies aren’t accustomed to talking to international clients in languages other than English, in other parts of the world this is considered a cultural norm for those who want to continue growing. Yes, English may be the global business language, but in order to fully reach and connect with the culture of their international consumers, companies need to look at investing in translations.

Just relying on communication in English can lead to problems down the line, especially when sales managers are dealing with material for foreign distributors. Our startup has found this occurs quite often with the Latin American market. When a company hires foreign distributors, let’s say for instance in Brazil, they then send all information and documents in English. However, the level of English around the sales force in Brazil is not enough to translate to Portuguese and sell the product locally. After all, no one knows your product better than yourselves, right? So why would you sabotage potential sales because you did not translate from English to Portuguese so that all the information could be sent across to them in the language that they understand most. Even if English speaking countries were to translate brand material to Spanish or localize content into Latin American Spanish, they can shorten the onboarding time for new products!

Something else to bear in mind — global distributors around the world will be more willing to purchase your product if they can fully comprehend all the information you send them. They have to know the product inside out. It’s worthless to contract foreign distributors if they can’t support your commercial profile simply because they fail to transfer your product knowledge through lack of translation.

Explain how great your product is to global distributors in their own language. Not only will they sell it better but they can easily outsmart you. Their experience and expertise mean they know exactly how to market specific products. If you provide them with enough information by translating documents into their language, they can open new doors for you that you didn’t know existed!

And this isn’t just the case for foreign distributors. Global companies that employ an international sales team with representatives around the world face the same issue. Becoming a sales representative does not necessarily require a qualification, just a particular personality type — one that displays persistence and persuasion. Most of all, the ambition and thrill of closing as many sales as possible. Hiring a sales force involves intensive training but it’s all worthwhile once the sales figures begin to rise, right? But what if I were to tell you that emotionality is distinguished in a person’s second language. Words and phrases in another language don’t spark emotional feelings like they do in their native language.

Let’s say that a US manufacturing company has just set up an office in Mexico and has employed Mexican natives that can speak English at a business proficiency level. If all product information they receive is in English, they will be able to understand the meaning of the words but they won’t be able to fully grasp the emotional connotations of the products. In order to sell, you have to be passionate about your product and its benefits. But how can you convince your international consumers to buy it if you lack an emotion all because you are speaking in a foreign language?

Do you have distributors scattered around the globe? If so, how do you communicate with them? Would you ever consider speaking to them in their native language?