How To Sell In Mexico When You Don't Speak The Language

This is a guest post from Caelen King, founder and CEO of WhatClinic.com, a seach engine for health clinics worldwide that has recently expanded into the UK Dentist & UK Plastic Surgery markets. Caelen recently completed Enterprise Ireland’s iGAP 2 Programme.

Recently I was listening to Dermot, one of our salespeople, while he was on the phone. He was slowly but clearly spelling out our key advantages, but it was obvious from his careful enunciation that he was talking to someone whose English was very poor. What I didn’t know was that he was talking to a dentist in Mexico who didn’t speak ANY English.

From my perspective everything looked pretty normal. Dermot waited for the dentist’s reply and nodded sympathetically. Unfortunately, however, Dermot speaks no Spanish, other than a poorly pronounced “Hola” or “Gracias”. Despite this, and in his best Limerick accent, he stated the price of our product in Euro and in Pesos several times and listened.

Somehow, even with the language barrier, he made himself understood, and he listened again to the dentists unintelligible reply. The conversation continued like this for another five minutes before I finally heard Dermot taking down the dentist’s credit card details and closing the sale.

Now, I’m sure hearing this story you’re thinking that it is slightly implausible, ifnot somewhat incredible, but as we expand WhatClinic.com into new export markets it is becoming common place. Every week Dermot closes a sale with an overseas client he has no common language with, and he does it the same way every time: by developing trust with the prospective client.

The conversation usually starts with a clinic manager who does speak at least some English but has no authority to spend the clinic’s money and insists Dermot speaks to the dentist or surgeon who owns the clinic. This conversation usually ends pretty quickly as there is no common language, but Dermot always ends by saying he’ll send an email.

By now you’ll probably see where this is going. After each call Dermot summarises our benefits and pricing and uses Google Translate to convert it into the client’s language. Surprisingly this is remarkably effective in at least getting a reply from the client (which Dermot pops into Google Translate again) and opens the door to uncovering and countering objections, and the sales process has started in earnest.

All of which brings us back nicely to the phone call. The information needed by the client is all delivered via translated emails, but despite this Dermot has found that the phone call is still absolutely necessary. Simply put, if he doesn’t pick up the phone he won’t make the sale. Why?

We all work on refining our sales and marketing messages looking for big wins and small gains but what we sometimes forget is that the most important aspect of selling is gaining the client’s trust. Having spoken briefly once at the start of the process, and made the effort to translate emails into the client’s language, the follow up phone call reminds the client that there is a real person on the other end of the conversation and it establishes Dermot as someone the client wants to do business with.

When Dermot is on the phone with a non-English speaking client he treats them with the same respect he gives to a surgeon from the UK or a dentist in Ireland. He listens as intently,and gives them the same time. He knows that anything he can’t decipher from the occasional word and intonation he does understand he will be able to gather via email after the conversation. As a results he develops a level of trust with the prospective client that cannot be achieved without human contact.

Mexico is now our largest single market, largely thanks the ‘overcome all obstacles’ attitude of Dermot and the rest of the sales team.

3 Comments

  1. WhatClinic.com is a model example of what a future Irish-based company should look like: Exporting, Online and at the top of their game.

    We were only just blogging about GEO-Targeting yesterday and it put a big smile on my face to read this.

    Just last year, while Google was celebrating “Translation Day”, they pointed out the huge task it would be to translate the entire web into different languages. Even just translating all Non-English content into English would take many thousands of years. A non-runner so…

    This highlights the importance of tools like Google Translate and your shared experience shows

    Reply
  2. David,

    Thanks for your comments; Especially with the launch of the Google Android / iPhone near real time voice translation, I expect the language barrier to become less and less of an issue for Irish companies.

    Paul

    Reply
  3. Fantastic little story. I always follow whatclinic.com to see what they are up to. It is very similar to how I want to run my website. The barriers to global expansion are becoming smaller. Things like Google Translate, working in the cloud and crowdsourcing are changing how we do business.

    Reply

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