Internationalize Your Business:
Work with Clients Without Leaving the U.S.
By Colleen A. Rickenbacher
look at the people in your company; the people you buy products from
or whose services cater to your needs. Think about your neighbors
and community members. Chances are these people are a blend of
nationalities, cultures and religions. The United States has long
been called a “melting pot” and, according to research, the
diversity is only going to increase.
multicultural atmosphere not only affects our daily lives, but also
our companies and the way we do business. Maybe you never actually
cross an ocean to work with a person from another country, but
whether you realize it or not, you are still working and selling
globally. This includes the business you do over the phone, on the
Internet, in a meeting, or over a meal. So how can you build
stronger relationships with a diverse clientele? What can you do to
understand these cultures and improve the way you do business?
companies, even those headquartered in another country, have become
very westernized. They want to do business in the U.S. and get the
edge over their competition. They tend to dress like we do, shake
hands like we do and they have adopted our style of work and ethics.
But their ties run deep to their own country and culture, so in
return they hope we respect their traditions.
are a few ways to improve your cultural protocol and improve your
business with customers who have ties to other cultures.
Understand their culture. Religion in other cultures is often the
basis for their work and existence. Respect other peoples’ religious
holidays and be aware of the days they celebrate so it doesn’t
conflict with a major deadline or important meeting.
Family is also a major factor in their structure. Be respective of
the time they want to spend with their family, and work within an
agreed upon schedule.
Avoid the use of slang. It doesn’t look professional and oftentimes,
people from other cultures will not understand. We all tend to have
certain accents and local “sayings,” so take care not to constantly
bring these words or phrases into the conversation.
Be aware of the way you look and dress. Make sure you are
appropriately dressed for your meetings. Many cultures still adhere
to business dress. If your associate arrives in a coat and tie for a
meeting and you show up in jeans, you may never even give your
attire a second thought. However, in many countries your status and
respect in the business is judged upon your appearance. Many
businesspeople from other cultures will judge your ability on your
first impression so be aware of what image you are projecting,
especially during your first meetings.
Use proper telephone etiquette. It is as simple as answering the
phone on the first or second ring, answering with your name and/or
company name and identifying yourself. During the conversation, be
sure to provide the person with 100 percent of your attention. Now
is not the time to multitask – avoid typing, eating or drinking
during your phone conversation.
prepared for the call with the necessary materials and information.
Follow-up within 24 hours, even if you don’t have an answer for your
client within that time. It’s important to get back to the person
and provide an update, along with a new date and time of completion.
Remember to speak in full sentences and leave out any jargon that
may not be understood. Even abbreviations or acronyms can be
confusing, so be clear and concise while you’re on the phone.
careful of meeting times and dates:
Many other countries use a 24-hour clock to tell time. They are
accustomed to our clock, but give them a moment to register and
clarify if they are hesitant. Also, remember other countries
generally put the month before the day when listing times. We list
month/day/year. They list day/month/year. Again, clarify ahead of
time so you are arriving on the correct day, correct month and at
the correct time. You can even spell out the month to avoid any
Learn to eat in the continental style by keeping your knife in your
right hand and fork in the left. Avoid talking and chewing at the
same time, and take your time eating. Enjoy the meal and place your
silverware on the plate during discussions. Don’t rush into business
as soon as you sit down. Enjoy the conversation and then move into
the business discussions.
8) Avoid spreading out your materials on the table. This is a meal, not a
conference table. Keep everything in a portfolio that can easily be
placed on your lap or underneath your chair. Come with condensed and
well-prepared material if needed for the meeting. Again, make it
easy for your client to handle by placing the information in their
folder. Order easy-to-eat food so you can concentrate on your
clients and the discussions, instead of focusing on eating ribs or
business in today’s marketplace, your company needs to stay
competitive. Learning how to work with and be respectful of other
cultures can provide that extra edge. Even if you are not traveling
overseas to do business, the U.S. provides ample opportunities for
multicultural business transactions each day. By following these
guidelines, you can provide better service and products to your
diverse clientele and put your business ahead of the competition.
Read other articles and learn more about
Colleen A. Rickenbacher.
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