This is the last of five posts on simplifying your cross-cultural communication to improve clarity. Obviously what you say is easy for you to understand. And probably to the people around you.
But when communicating to different cultures, your communication may not be easy for everyone to understand. Cultural differences and different thought processes means that we have different meanings for what is simple and easy to understand. Communication between cultures can be difficult.
Keep your written communication simple and to the point.
There are a few different forms of communication: written, verbal and non-verbal communication.
Written communication can be difficult to get right when communicating with people from different cultures. You do not have the body language to help you get your message across. And you do not have the immediate feedback you get with verbal communication.
Despite this, in the international sales process, the right touch of written communication can often help establish good international business relationships.
When doing business with people from different cultures, you will notice how some people will need face-to-face meetings and others are happy to conduct business over the phone. And some cultures are more direct than others.
The truth is that how you communicate within a sales process targeting different cultures is important. In international selling a little thought in how you adapt your communication to different cultural needs can help you make more sales.
Cross-Cultural Communication Skills & Sales Best Practices
This reminds me of a quote from Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book Of Sales Answers.
“Writing is a key differentiator. I’ve used it for 14 years. Writing will not just lead to differentiation. Writing is the credibility you need to create buyer confidence.” – Jeffrey Gitomer
Throughout all of my experience in communicating in different cultural environments, simplicity and clarity were essential tools in international business. Simplicity and clarity have helped me to adapt to a variety of different cultural environments.
Of course, good business communication is a well-balanced mixture of written, verbal and non-verbal communication. And it takes practice to get a good sense of when you need to call someone, send them an email or mail them a short note.
For example, many North Americans think a handwritten card is a very nice gesture. Although I do not know of anyone who would not be offended, I do know of many European cultures who would not “appreciate” the gesture to the extent a North American would. A hand-written card could bring up all sorts of questions in other cultures around the idea of: “Why this special attention for me?”
But today I would like to tell you what I always look for in written communication. Knowing when to write something and what to write is a skill that served me well in international sales.
For example, short email can speed the sales process along when you use it well:
- To confirm current position and what is needed next.
- To give a status report and let your international client know you have not forgotten about him.
Usually this type of email is best preceded or followed up by a short phone call.
These practices may seem similar to normal sales procedures. With cross-cultural clients, you do need to pay attention to:
- What you say
- How you say it
- When you say it
This is what I review systematically in all written communication:
- Establish the context for the reader – why I am writing, reference to any previous event, phone call or meeting, who was involved and when this happened.
- Choice of words – to avoid all ambiguity, no acronyms, spell out times and dates fully and if time zones are involved, give times and locations for all parties.
- One clear message – with clear topics and lists as required and a clearly defined purpose for writing.
- Clearly tell your reader the next step and whether you expect him to do something – highlight this and make it easy to pick up.
- Identify whether this written communication requires a follow up phone call, and if so, when and with whom.
- Keep it short. One email per subject.
All of these points are rapidly evaluated and adapted to the culture I want to communicate with.
What Is Your Experience Of This In International Sales?
- How do you use written communication in your international sales process?
- Do your international clients find your written communication easy to understand?
- How do you use different forms of communication to get international sales?
Check out the other International Sales Best Practices in this series.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Sales
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