Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Going abroad to do business is incredibly exciting. It can also turn on a dime and end up dreadful. The reason for this is because when you travel to another country in the hopes of impressing a client, you are courting them.
Much like you would hope to swoon someone in your personal life, the client you’re meeting is conscious of the fact that you are both engaged in this merry dance. You as a business are trying to secure a contract, a deal of some kind from the client. The client doesn’t have to be a private investor who is wealthy enough to fund your endeavours whether back home or abroad. They can be just a retail giant that may want to sell your product in their stores worldwide. It could also be a manufacturing business that would like to make your product in their facilities. It could be a business partner that wishes to come aboard one of your projects or you as part of their team. However, you are in their backyard, they haven’t come to meet you. This means that inherently the ball is in their court, and hence you should know the etiquette of meeting a client abroad.
Have the details ready
Do not make it a chore to meet up in the beginning. Make sure you have all the relevant details of your meeting and the first couple of days. Build up a rapport with the client before you even set foot on the plane to journey over to their nation. In practice, all you need is the time of the meeting and where. In reality, you need to know what will be discussed beforehand. Will you be giving them a presentation, or do they already know who you are and what you do to the point whereby all they want is a meeting to discuss details. Maybe they would like to get to know you first. Yes, that’s right; even though business is on the agenda, your character is also going to be judged.
Once you have the details of the location where you will meet, the passes to the conference room if any, the physical elements to any presentation and the time, you are all set. Knowing the key details also saves you time. You won’t be planning your journey on the fly and can get situated and comfortable in the country and take your time preparing for the meeting.
Casual versus serious meeting
A casual meeting is obviously going to be less pressurized. However, you will need to get a vibe for what kind of meeting you’re having. It can be subtle as the client saying “fly over and we’ll meet, we’ll have a cup of coffee together.” And then you set up the meeting. However, if the client says something like “Show me what your business is all about, and what kind of products you have made and any plans you have for the future.” Then you already know that you will need to impress them with your presentation.
However it also depends on where you’re meeting. If you are meeting in their business but you’re having a cup of coffee in their office, it’s semi-casual. You’re meeting in a place where serious work is done, but the atmosphere is nonchalant. If you’re having dinner at a restaurant then it’s going to be more casual with bits of serious talking in between. This is all about feeling you out, and getting to know you. Every single serious negotiation will usually take place in a boardroom. So if you get any other kind of request for the meeting, you can bet that it’s going to be casual to some degree.
Meeting up for dinner
Many business meetings that have caused huge changes in industries, companies and even culture have been had over dinner. Flying to a foreign country to meet with a prospective client, is a big deal but remember you’re a businessman. Leaders meeting other leaders, are in a different kind of stead with each other. You can both relate on a lot of things, specifically the pressure of leading a business, dealing with people management, trying to keep to profit margins and generally trying to stay ahead in your respective line of work.
So meeting at a restaurant to eat great food and drink fine wines is a fantastic way to break the ice and still, remain in that mindset that you are having an important meeting. When you first sit down after greeting one another, make small talk. Tell them a bit about yourself and remember to ask them questions too. Even though you have flown over to see them, you should make it as if they are trying to impress you back, so you can be on an even playing field. During the main course if when you will be answering and asking serious questions. This is the heart of the meeting, you’ll be talking about the facts and figures of any deal.
Desert and or coffee after the meal, is again back to casual talk. Lower the tone again, and try to end the meal on a high. Don’t try to impress too much and let your hair down a little. Behave as if you are with a friend, talking about the future and what you plan on achieving.
After the meeting
It would look awkward and even disrespectful if you just flew back home after the meeting. You came all this way to meet with them, you’ve had the meeting and you both know where you stand. That doesn’t mean you need to go back home in a formal manner. Offer to take them around town and unwind. Like EUbusiness.com recommends, after the serious negotiation, you want to end by entertaining them and allowing them to entertain you. Sightseeing around town, enjoying premium services such as selective wine tasting, eating a gourmet fine dining restaurants, seeing VIP areas of museums or art gallery is all part and parcel of swooning them.
Don’t forget that they are trying to impress you too. So if the client offers to take you around town, take them up. Don’t set a date for when you fly home and stick to the flight schedule. You must take your time to bond with the client and strike up a friendship. It’s not all about money and contract signings.
End with a remember-me-by
It would be nice to end the whole trip with a present that you could give to your client just as you leave. It’s a nice sentiment and gesture to show them you are respectful of their time and willingness to meet you and settle on a deal that will give both businesses a chance to grow. It’s obviously not necessary, but it’s out of the blue which is a way to surprise them with a gift. It can be something that you have taken with you on the trip or bought in the location you’re in. preferably, it should be something personal and a token of your appreciation. Something from your own business such as a free product of premium quality would be fitting.
Going so far as to get on a plane and fly to another country to meet a client is a big deal. You’re the moving image and reputation of your business with that weight on your shoulders. So you need to be prepared and have all the right details well ahead of time. Be sure of what kind of meeting it is, by noting the language, the location and the time. Presentations and serious negotiations will be in the boardroom, but if you’re meeting for dinner or coffee, then it’s more casual.