Blog & Tips


Exporters need Global Communication Skills

by John Graham

Like the Japanese, the South Koreans are known for their very long working day, it is not uncommon for them to finish at midnight. Despite this, and while working with the Korean multi-national, Daewoo Electronics in international customer, supplier and quality management, I still found time to party. On one such occasion 11 years ago, I met a Hungarian girl, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We moved from Northern Ireland to Hungary in 2005, and what I observed was this great international business potential but a considerable lack of English language, communication and cultural awareness skills. So, 8 years later, and having gained a lot of valuable experience consulting and training with global companies and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in Japan and South Korea, I have come back and set up my services here. I develop peoples’ global business communication skills. I help them to confidently and effectively communicate their message in English so they can achieve their global business objectives. For the last 8 years I have worked in these areas of global employee and leadership development, living in 4 countries and working in many more.

Since I returned from Asia, I have noticed that the language skills have improved a little here, but not significantly, while business communication and cultural awareness skills are still lacking. These skills are absolutely essential for global companies and SMEs who wish to break into new foreign markets. Export focused SMEs will create their own foreign export strategy; define their objectives and match with resources, be clear on their niche and USP, choose the right market, research their competition and, of course, market their services and products, but if those solutions are not presented and communicated confidently and in the right way the opportunities will be snapped up by the more globally savvy competition.

Hungarian companies with an export focus need to pay attention to connecting, networking, building relations and thus the so called ‘soft skills’ and communication skills. Having employees with strong communication skills is especially beneficial for companies vying for business in foreign markets. After making connections the focus should be on building partnerships, and then you are using the communication skills; emailing, teleconferencing, meeting, presenting, negotiating and persuading. My experience, from working with the SMEs here in Hungary, is that they have great ideas, great products and great knowledge but getting their ideas across convincingly and effectively is often where the problem lies.

…SMEs here in Hungary … have great ideas, great products and great knowledge but …

Communication is an essential part of any export strategy. Excellent communication with a great idea is what will give Hungarian SMEs the competitive edge they need to do global business. But there should also be some focus on the intercultural aspects of communication.

…communication with people from different countries …will require some adjustment …

Business communication with people from different countries, for example, when emailing or negotiating, will require some adjustment, a style shift to suit the cultural preference of that nation. I recently worked with a manager from a Hungarian IT company who needed help in presenting their product line to prospective customers in Saudi Arabia and the US. We prepared two slightly different presentations. For the Americans the conclusion was at the beginning (in the US they say: “time is money” and “what’s the bottom line?”, so we got to the result quickly), he would invite questions to be asked at any time during the presentation and I coached him to deliver in a much more forthright manner. With the Saudi Arabian presentation, we built up to the conclusion, focused more on building a relationship of trust; enhancing the chance of sale and the potential for repeat and referral business.

Exporting can be a great way to grow a company, but it involves careful preparation, a well-thought out strategy, lots of courage, often financing and always great communication.