Readers are invited to submit a question which we will then pose to one of our Forbes Councils members. This group is full of knowledge and experience — we’re eager to share their insights with you.
Question: How Can I Ensure Strong Communication with Clients Who Speak Other Languages?
My company is interested in taking on international business, and we have made contact with potential clients overseas. How can I plan for clear communication when we don’t speak the same language?
Meet our Executive: Patricia Fiore, Founder and Strategist: Chief Inspiration Officer, FIORE
Pat Fiore of Forbes Agency Council is a relationship builder, putting companies together for the benefit of both, bringing opportunities to life and developing “category creators” for new markets. As FIORE’s Chief Inspiration Officer, Pat has worked with iconic brands in retail, flavors, fragrance, food, lifestyle, CPGs, beauty, natural/organic products and rare and dynamic technologies.
Answer: Have a Fluent Translator on Board From the Start
We worked on a project with a company in Italy. Our job was to develop a business plan for them to present to the Italian government to get a grant to establish their business here in the US, using our expertise on the American market and consumer attitudes and behaviors.
We spent several months on site in Italy, but were unable to be there continuously. The company had a small agency they worked with for trade expositions, presentations, and various projects. Although we made every effort to work with the agency, communications were strained and we were unable to get the information we needed. Despite efforts on both sides, eventually the three-year contract was canceled.
What I learned is that it is impossible to manage an account with language challenges from a distance. A lot can be lost in translation. You must have someone on board from the very beginning of the account that speaks the language and can translate not just the words, but the nuances in the conversations.
We have established a new set of internal rules for foreign clients. We also have set up a protocol for those companies with the person or persons who will be our liaison. We are currently using that protocol and those internal rules for a new client and it is working brilliantly.