The language of selling – Breaking the communication barrier

We sometimes assume that the rest of the world conducts business in English, but far from it.  The Office for National Statistics claims that three-fifths of UK services trade with the EU and North America, two-fifths takes place in Asia, Africa, Australasia, the Middle East and South America, many of which English is not their native tongue or second language. A British Council survey states that three-fourths of the UK are unable to speak any language well enough to hold a conversation.

The global market accounts for a large majority of UK exports and 2017 saw UK exports double that of imports. UK business is highly respected by international firms. Our professional approach, employment rights and expertise in specialized areas, means that our services are highly regarded and sought after. It is important that we embrace global markets and improve on our communication and language techniques in order to reap economic benefits post Brexit.

For many sales professional speaking to someone who’s first language is not English can be daunting, the fear of failure due to bad communication can mean that a negative approach manifests itself before you have picked up the phone. Usually the recipient is just as nervous as the caller, but you need to gain their trust and make them feel at ease. Here are a few ways of communicating with international firms.

1 – Putting the right sales person forward 

Obvious isnt it? if you have a member of the sales team that speaks a particular language, then it makes sense to allocate that potential client to the appropriate sales person. Most sales teams will have someone who speaks, French, Italian, German or Spanish.  Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head, speak to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.” If there is no one available that speaks a second language then do your best to learn greetings, a hello, goodbye or thankyou.

2 – Cultural awareness

All countries will have their different ways of greeting someone. The French, Spanish, Italian may greet you with a kiss on each cheek, but how many? China, Japan and other South East Asian countries will greet with a bow, but it is important to do it correctly. Some cultures will be offended if you do not bring gifts or receive gifts or refuse offerings such as food or drink. Certain customs and traditions are important to follow, failure to do so may come across as disrespectful and will cost you business.

Do not dismiss cultures and traditions, do not be put off by unexpected customs, embrace them and ask about them, it shows willingness.

3 – Speech

Slow down your speech, but be careful not to come across as patronizing, it helps the listener keep up.

Avoid using slang, abbreviations or long words. The use of tones can be effective, for instance raising the tone of your voice when asking a question.

4 – Body language

For face to face meetings it is important to use hand gestures and facial movements.

Your posture can give away your mood and may come across as negative, so adopt a posture that shows interest and enthusiasm.

5 – Get the name right

We all know the importance of pronouncing a name correctly, if you are not sure how to pronounce it and you have done your research to try to find out, then apologize when you first meet and ask how to pronounce it.

Top 10 languages used in international business in order of importance;

1 – Spanish – This also covers a large percentage of South America.

2 – Arabic – Muslim speaking countries

3 – French – Some parts or Asia and Africa speak French

4- Mandarin/Chinese

5 – German

6 – Portuguese – Includes Brazil

7 – Italian

8 – Russian

9 – Turkish

10 – Japanese

If you want to reach out to international markets and your business needs to increase its pipelines, contact Research-Runner, specialists in lead generation and sales consultancy with international experience and a global presence. Visit our website at or contacts us on +44 (0)1279 260 031.

By | 2018-03-07T13:35:20+00:00 February 27th, 2018|Latest Articles|