Your employees and your organization must be ready to take the step

No changes can take place if those who will have to run the new activities and / or act according to the new rules will not be ready.

Language issues of the past

In the past many engineering SMEs (e.g.), entered into foreign markets through local agents who were fluent in the company’s own language. These business and cultural intermediaries allowed companies in which the only language spoken was a local dialect to achieve significant success in distant markets and cultures.

The solution had the disadvantage of limiting the choices of potential agents and distribution channels and to make the companies dependent on these agents.
The spread of English as a universal business lingua franca has weakened the importance of these professionals in favor of more direct contacts between supply and demand.

But is it enough to have just a couple of people in the company who are able to answer the phone in English? Yes, if we want to achieve a “survival” level of operations. No in all other cases.

What communication skills are required today?

To bring to a higher level the relationship with its business partners in the markets, be they direct customers, agents or local branches, it is necessary that all business functions are able to communicate in the lingua franca.
The complexity of today’s transactions and negotiations requires the mobilization of technical experts, administrative managers, logistics managers and not just the commercial people.

Is it just a matter of language?

I’m afraid not.
Being able to communicate is a fundamental requirement. But to act on the new market, not only we will need to communicate and to do it effectively. Our organization will have to tune into the new partners, to be ready to understand the needs of new customers and to make them their own.
In short, it will need to be able to get out of the logic of “us” versus “them” and to depart from those stereotypes, that are usual in all companies and social groups. Customers are customers. Their characteristic is to hold in their pockets money, that we would like to have in ours.

Conclusion

The evolution of international relations, of our behavior and of our knowledge require companies, in order to compete effectively in international markets, to adopt a higher level of relationship with local counterparts.

If once it was enough to have a person in the company speaking English (or French), today we need to have a whole organization not only able to communicate, but also willing to enter into relationships with new counterparts.
A good level of corporate diversity can facilitate this capability, and must be planned in advance, as it takes a long time until it gives results.

Author: Michele Schweinöster

International manager with deep understanding of consumer durable goods and of machinery, functionally expert in the areas of service, logistics and sales.

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