8 Oct 2013

On your first visit to an overseas business contact (maybe a potential customer, or supplier, or alliance partner) make sure that you understand the expectations of your foreign host – and then go out of your way to exceed them.

Before receiving you, they will make a number of assumptions about you and these will be based upon the reputation of British business people abroad. Some of these will be positive and some, well not so flattering.

Good Points To Be Confirmed

Because you are British, your host will expect you to be

  • Punctual
  • Polite
  • Organised
  • Reliable
  • Trustworthy

You already have these points in the bank, so do not do anything which will sacrifice them.  Don’t just be punctual, try to be early for everything – even if they are not. Make sure that you have fully prepared for your visit, leaving nothing to chance. Always do everything that you have promised – and more quickly than expected.

“Less Welcome” Points To Be Overcome

Similarly, because of past reputations, your host will probably expect you to be

  • Predictable
  • Inflexible
  • Non-linguistic
  • Culturally-naive
  • Not resilient

This is where you have a significant opportunity to impress by proving that you are better than expected. Learn as much as you can in advance about local customs and etiquette to guarantee you don’t make embarrassing mistakes. If nothing else learn “yes”, “no”, “please”, “thank you”, “hello”, “goodbye” and “cheers” in their language. Most importantly, do your homework so that you can go to the negotiating table with flexibility, to come across as someone who has gone to do business.

Confirming the “Good” points ought to be instinctive and consistent with the culture of your business. Sound preparation will enable you to overcome the “Less Welcome” points and turn a potential negative into a definite positive.