Having just read a number of articles on this subject I feel compelled to write about it with the usual slant on selling translation services. In my opinion the concept is hardly new, though the importance of it has increased hugely in recent years.
Teaching customers about the ins and outs of translation has always been part of a sales person’s responsibilities in our industry, especially in English-first countries such as the UK and the USA where product development rarely gave a thought to international markets, let alone linguistic issues. Software was happily developed using US-centric encoding and marketing materials were created without a thought given to white space or graphic design. Only when an inquiry from abroad came in or home market revenues were dropping and companies needed to look elsewhere for sales was attention paid to international markets and accommodating different language requirements. Suddenly they had to find “somebody” to do the translation.
I spent a lot of time educating customers who had very little knowledge of (and sometimes even less interest in) other languages. This was simply part of my job and most of the time the part of it I enjoyed the most. Why? Because I was actually helping the customer understand, not just the process and why they needed to provide this file or that, but what translation could do for them as a company. I spent a lot of time helping them see how translation could help them generate revenue or gain market share or beat their competition. Educating.
Fast Forward To Today
In some ways things haven’t changed all that much. We still need to educate customers who have little knowledge about different languages. To me it’s a matter of degree. We need to become BETTER educators due to some key differences in today’s market:
1) There are a lot more customers out there in every possible industry and business function.
2) What translation can do for these various customers can be completely different.
3) With low barriers to entry, there are a lot more competitors in the translation space.
4) Customers have access to a lot more information about you, your company and competitors.
5) Customers are looking for help to achieve operational efficiencies, increase sales, etc. because they don’t always have enough time to do it themselves.
6) Everything is moving faster.
What’s The Impact?
The above list is hardly exhaustive, but highlights the importance of educating our customers, as well as how we should be educating them. In response to the list above:
1) Target your customers. Define your ideal client by industry, title and ideal project. Go after them, not everybody.
2) Learn what makes your ideal clients tick. Learn about their industry and their role in the company so you can have conversations about business issues rather than flogging translation services at them.
3) You have to be better than your competition. Flogging translation services won’t win you many customers today. You will sound like every other translation sales person who has called them. You yourself can be the differentiator by being smarter.
4) You and your company need a good online presence: LinkedIn profiles, decent website, case studies, useful information that helps the customer see who you are and what you can do.
5) Educate your customer about how your services help them achieve business objectives. Provide insights based on your experience with other, similar customers. This is compelling and interesting. BUT, this means you need to educate yourself. (For a great insight on this topic, see Anthony Iannarino’s blog post from August 2013 entitled You Are Teaching. But Are You Also Learning?).
6) Start educating sooner. The education process starts with the first cold call, voice message or email…not later in the sales process. Besides, describing your services is boring. What they do for the customer is interesting!
Customer education can be one of the most rewarding aspects of selling translations. If this doesn’t interest you, then I suggest you think about pursuing another line of work. The days of smiling and dialling and playing the numbers game are dying a fast death. No one is interested in listening to a laundry list of services or talking with someone who only appears to want to make the sale. They want to talk to someone who truly understands them and has something useful to add to the conversation besides “do you buy translation services?’