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When you run international deals, how do you navigate the language barrier?

I've had an inordinate amount of prospects come through lately from other countries, and they are all very nice people with better language skills than me (I only speak english and I have mad respect for bilingual people).

Sometimes it's hard to understand people over zoom; and if I don't understand what they're asking or saying I feel like a dick when I have to ask them to clarify a couple times throughout a call.

This isn't something new to me, but lately so many deals are with companies across seas so it's top of my mind.

What are your best tips to navigate this?

For context it's not just one language - I'm frequently meeting with organizations across like 4 different regions.

International Deals - How to beat a language barrier
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14
Sunbunny31
Politicker
6
Sr Sales Executive
I've never been able to find team members who speak every language I've run across, and never in advance, so that's out.

It's a real challenge for sure, particularly when your ears have adjusted to one accent's cadence and then another is added in the same call.

A couple of suggestions: request permission to record, and then record the session. Most recording capabilities in meeting or external have transcription now, and while it's definitely not perfect, it may provide enough framework for context clues to fill in the rest when you review.

I've found it's better to patiently request clarification rather than fail to understand what someone is saying. "Do you mind restating that? I want to be sure I fully understand what you're saying" is polite and if the roles were reversed, I'd rather be asked to rephrase or repeat something than be misunderstood.
DungeonsNDemos
Big Shot
1
Dialing for Initiative
Great point, I definitely agree with you about asking to rephrase something.
Sunbunny31
Politicker
0
Sr Sales Executive
My scenario may be different, in that I work with many companies that have multi-national/global presence, so in one call, I may have someone from Poland, from India, from China and from Italy. So it's not so much that I'm pitching a company based and operated abroad, it's generally that I'm dealing with a company where everyone speaks English but may be in a different country.
LordOfWar
Tycoon
3
Blow it up
This was my life for 5 years.

Google translate is amazing. Their live translation of text and voice to text is next level. I would often use it to translate tender documents to English then translate my English submission back to German/French/Dutch/etc before having our local agent review it. Often they said that although it had some grammar and used non-standard words, they got the gist of what I was saying throughout the document.

Keeping that in mind, use the chat feature in the conference software to get them to write what they are asking and translate that, or have them send you links to what they are asking about. Get creative and don't stick to talking, this also helps you be unique and shows you are trying hard to help them.

If you can, hire a local to help you out. There are always students and other part-timers looking for work and you could get someone to help you translate back and forth for a small fee. This will help when completing regulatory paperwork or bids in local languages too.

Hiring a local to help might also lead to increased leads for you as they become a pseudo-BDR for you.

Learn a few words of their language, like hello, thank you, good to see you, etc. Though it may seem trivial, it is appreciated and shows some effort to understand their culture.
CuriousFox
WR Officer
3
Senior Account Executive
You can't give me the meme option and expect a serious answer.
SADNES5
Politicker
2
down voters are marketing spies
Start watching films/kid shows in those languages with subtitles. (No joke). Eventually, you will pick up the language cadence and have an easier time understanding.
DungeonsNDemos
Big Shot
1
Dialing for Initiative
Thinking outside the box! I like it!
1nbatopshotfan
Politicker
2
Senior Director, Enterprise Technology
Make sure you finish every call with an after action email. Just a summary, next steps etc, but get their confirmation on details as well. Helps to clear it up and keep everyone on the same page.
NoSuperhero
Politicker
0
BDR
Try to learn some basics at the very least!! Trying to connect at their level is highly important, IMHO
Notmyrealname
Politicker
0
SDR
All of the above are great options but obviously I voted for memes.
jefe
Arsonist
0
Head of Sales
Local partner, if possible., And lots of communication through email.
Palladium_Rog
Opinionated
0
Account Executive
Written confirmation is what works best for me.

Whenever you need something from them, ask them later to forward you that over an email. I do it every time I speak to someone with a thick accent or if they're incoherent.

Plus refrain from using slang, overly sophisticated words or idioms (they can be super confusing).

I once asked a client "How they find the market" with intention to understand how they feel/think about the market and he took it literally and started telling me the ways how their sales/marketing teams work.
StringerBell
Politicker
0
Account Executive
I think English is your only real bet. Iโ€™m
Reasonably bilingual in French but could never really sell in it despite living in Quebec my whole life. You might learn a couple of phrases but you probably wonโ€™t learn to sell in another language by watching movies or taking duolingo classes.

Written communication where people can use google translate helps for key information.

Also just always remember that they donโ€™t speak English so use a more basic vocabulary and speak slowly.

desperado
Politicker
0
Head of Sales
Our company has full time translators just for this. It's amazing
11
Do you think the language you use during calls & demos (outside of the script) make a huge impact on your deals?
Question
59
57
How important is it for you to speak more than one language in your current sales position?
Question
114