"Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood."
The Stephen R. Covey quote in this title pretty much sums up what I want to communicate in this Rant: "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood."
My last Rant expressed frustration that many have with a lack of understanding overseas companies seem to have of our marketplace. These companies troll for business in social media forums. I received many positive comments on this commentary. Here are two samples:
"Thanks for reading my mind. I especially love it when I've posted on LinkedIn a few times looking for a specific item that I already know exists and I get at least a half dozen overseas suppliers asking me for specs so they can build it for me. It drives me crazy...and no, I would never do business with them."
"I found your Rant exactly how I feel! I only buy from American suppliers and I have been ASI and PPAI for thirty years! You can't buy from the orient unless represented by an American based supplier like "XYX Company". They have most of their products made in China but I only buy from them. I have been very pleased with their products and they have received many gold medals from PPAI for their service."
There was one negative comment. I followed up and shared some dialogue with an executive of a large distributor company who took issue with my take on the language barrier. He brought up good points that are worth addressing. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
"Are you familiar with the term "Ugly American"? Has nothing to do with what you look like and everything to do with attitude. Your article on dealing with Chinese people which actually focused on their ability to speak American English is what the Ugly American title was invented for!!!"
"Consider that there are many Asian people in the US and very active in our industry that you also slandered with your broad comments and language illustrations. I for one would love to speak Chinese or any other language other than my native one, as well as any of the examples you gave. I do think that distributors should let suppliers handle production and agree that taking on production at a distance is risky. But you could have made that case a dozen other ways without the weakest argument - language."
I understand what you are saying in the process of doing business, but my point is that these discussions have to do with the factories soliciting business in online forums. It seems that if these companies take the step to sell us, they should understand the way our industry works. Many don't. They just troll for business that in most cases is unrealistic for them to handle.
"Business people in general and certainly people that sell in this industry want to be the center of the world! Everything is supposed to revolve around them. I complain all the time about competitors putting stuff in their ads that really isn't true like inflated sales numbers or mixing printing sales in with promotional. But the litmus test is always this - would I do the same thing if I had their job to do? If I was in charge of getting more business for my factory (in China, Mexico, Denver, NY or any other local) would I use all the available sources to put my message out? The answer is yes - I would."
"People seeing my ads or solicitations can decide to act on it or ignore it. Would I have a better chance of getting business if I had a better understanding of the industry I am communicating with? Sure, but until I do I still want to try!"
I understand his points. Of course you would try to get the business. That's your job.
For those who missed my original article, click here.
Click here for my video rant on this topic.
Whenever I can touch on a topic that typically is not addressed elsewhere and it creates a discussion, I feel I've done my job. In stimulating a dialog, we all learn something in the process. When people take the time to comment and express their views, it's a good thing. And truly my eyes have been opened about how I might have been misunderstood. I am now aware of a different perspective of why these frustrating posts happen. People are seeking out business opportunities and social media creates the forum to do that. I can respect anyone who is trying to find business in the avenues open to them.
The point of my commentary on this topic is that overseas factory salespeople are trying to sell things on these forums, irrespective of what the need is... and without any understanding of our industry or how it operates. Regardless of the grasp of someone's language skills, there is a lack of effective communication.
The ability to communicate effectively is at the core of any successful business. And the pitfalls are not just the ones we have talked about. Multinational corporations are famous for errors in brands or slogans. Language, of course, is only one of many cultural barriers you may have to bridge when doing business globally.
The bottom line is that communication is important!
Jeff Solomon, MAS, MASI is affiliated with a large distributor company. The FreePromoTips.com website and e-newsletters he publishes are packed with beneficial information and exclusive FREE offers from a few forward-thinking supplier companies. Don't miss out on what's happening! Opt in to receive their e-newsletters! LIKE their page on Facebook and follow them on twitter.