Internationalize Your Business:
Work with Clients Without Leaving the U.S.

By Colleen A. Rickenbacher

Take a 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.

This 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?

Many 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.

Here are a few ways to improve your cultural protocol and improve your business with customers who have ties to other cultures.

1) Religion: 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.

2) Family: 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.

3) Language: 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.

4) Appearance: 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.

5) Telephone skills: 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.

Be 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.

6) Be 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 confusion.

7) Eating: 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 lobster.

As a 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.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

Home      Recent Articles      Author Index      Topic Index      About Us
2005-2017 Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc   ▪   privacy statement