When you think about the concept of ‘speaking your client’s language’, the first thing that may spring to mind is the idea of building rapport – getting to know your client by identifying their values and developing positive relationships across their organisation. Finding that your business values align may help you to put yourself on the same page as your clients, but what extra benefits may you experience if you can communicate in their language?
This blog considers the benefits of talking the talk in your client’s native tongue.
Establishing an emotional connection
Nelson Mandela famously said that ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ During his imprisonment in South Africa, he learned Afrikaans, the language of his captors, and this enabled him to speak on their terms and in their language. While it is hard to know how big an influence this had on the conversations that led to Mandela’s eventual release, it is clear that he believed that learning Afrikaans would help him to connect on a more personal level with his captors.
In a similar way, your clients will appreciate you choosing to communicate in their native tongue, whether you have the language skills to negotiate a tricky deal or you are limited to pleasantries. New clients will recognise the effort that you have made to establish a strong connection with them, and this effort may help tip the balance when they decide whether to work with you.
Speaking in your client’s native language may also help you to speak their language in the ‘building a relationship’ sense too. If you have some multi-skilled linguists in your team, they will be able to create locally and culturally attuned business solutions, whatever your business, that get to the heart of your clients’ needs.
Making rational decisions
Doing business in your client’s native language has an additional benefit for you and your organisation. The emotional aspect (for your client), as outlined above, makes intuitive sense – by finding another way to connect personally with your clients, you have further cemented your business relationship, so you should find yourselves in a great position to develop a successful business partnership. However, research has also shown that speaking in a foreign language has an additional, and perhaps less intuitive, benefit.
According to researchers, the ‘foreign language effect’ allows you to think and process information in a more rational and analytical way. Conversely, this happens because it reduces the emotional effect for you as the speaker. So, while you may be helping to create a strong emotional connection with future clients as a result, you are still able to retain a cool head for business as you negotiate. This emotional flip side is definitely a win-win for your business!
Introducing language learning to your organisation may lead to a myriad of business opportunities – and your colleagues may reap additional personal and professional benefits from developing their language skills on the job. Our wide range of language courses, including business English, French and German, can be tailored to suit your needs, wherever your team is based. Contact Simon & Simon today to find out how we can help you develop effective language skills in your organisation.