Overseas episodes of The Apprentice always appeal to me. Apart from making great television, there are also great lessons about international business. Last night’s episode was no exception. If you haven’t seen it yet, then its well worth the effort. So are there international business lessons from this episode?

You don’t have to communicate in French to sell in France, or do you?

The winning team proved that it was possible to sell successfully. They had the right contacts as well as a great product. It was noticeable that the teams needed different language skills for different parts of the task though.

Pitching to top buyers, trying to sell to smaller businesses, and communicating with the French public, needed different skills. Would you buy a product in the UK if it only had French packaging? Imagine the retailer only marketed it in French. When you tried to speak with the sales team they only spoke French?

Communicating in the local language

Melodie proved that communicating in the local language by itself isn’t enough. In my opinion she ruined the task for her team, and should probably have been fired. One of her mistakes appeared to be talking at people and not listening. Easily done in a second language. In this case it had big consequences. She missed people saying how good the car seat/backpack product really was.

There is a wider lesson from the Apprentice here. If you try to sell to the French, or indeed any other overseas market, you must listen to and engage with customers. This will be more difficult than in the UK, but can reap big rewards if you get it right.

Making cultural mistakes

There were a few cultural mistakes in this episode of the Apprentice. Particularly when Suzie asked such basic questions as “do the French drive”? and “do the French like children”? This was very funny on air. However, asking such questions in the market, you risk alienating your potential customers before you start. It is extremely easy to patronise a culture you know little about. There is also a careful balance to strike about commonality. There will be similarities between UK customers and overseas, and genuine cultural difference.

How can we help you trade internationally?

So how can a translation company help businesses seeking to trade in other countries? Well the most obvious service is that of written translation services. You need to localise marketing materials, including “brochure” websites and e-commerce websites, for your intended target market. Then there is product packaging, labelling, and inserts such as user guides. All of these need to be translated into the local language.

Translation companies also provide other services however, here are just a few:

  • Interpreting: In a business meeting the party who has the best command of language has a big advantage. Professional interpreting can help, by ensuring you know what is going on. Choose carefully, as speaking a bit of each language isn’t enough for interpreting. It is an extremely skilled profession. The best interpreters won’t just be sitting ready to drop everything at two hours notice. We only use professional interpreters.
  • Intermediary work: sometimes you need an initial client contact. Having someone in-country able to make calls in the local language can make all the difference.
  • Social media marketing: Planning to run social media campaigns on Twitter? You will need careful translation to make it work.