Networking with leaders from other countries is likely to give you important new business opportunities. You’ll also discover new insights on how business and leadership can differ from a cultural perspective. Differences in spoken languages, customs and business methods can present both new challenges and new opportunities.
Building your international business network is a different undertaking than networking with business leaders in your own country. To ensure your networking efforts are successful, be sure to consider such things as cultural and procedural differences.
Here are nine strategies to help you master networking in any country in the world:
1 - Make Time for International Networking
As you know, making and maintaining valuable connections takes time. Thirty-eight percent of respondents to a 2017 LinkedIn survey (1) of nearly 16,000 users in 17 countries stated they find it difficult to connect with their network. Lack of time was cited by 49% as the main reason for this. However, over a third of respondents say that messaging with their network on LinkedIn created new opportunities, including new business partnerships. To network successfully, you need to set aside the time to do it. Adding this task to your calendar each week can help.
2 - Use Accurate Translations in Communications
It can be tricky to communicate effectively with an international networking prospect who speaks a language that’s foreign to you. If you have someone on your staff or another close contact who reliably speaks your target’s language, have them help you with this. Apps like Google Translate may do the job, but you want to ensure that your messages are properly conveyed and well received in communicative translation. Using Google Translate can also take a lot of time.
Consider adding a simple welcoming phrase in your online networking profile in the language of the internationals with whom you want to connect. For example, “Konnichiwa” is the usual greeting used to welcome someone in Japan in the daytime.
3 - Attend International Conventions & Trade Shows
Research which business conventions, trade shows, and events related to your industry/field tend to have large numbers of businessmen and women in attendance from around the world. Consider attending the events that are pertinent to the kinds of connections you want to make. You can also consider hosting your own seminar or networking event at these trade shows to make it easier for international business professionals to make a connection with you.
4 - Know Your Purpose in Wanting to Connect With Someone
Before issuing an online request to connect with someone, know what you hope to accomplish by meeting them and how they may stand to benefit from connecting with you. Conducting some background research on potential connections can help with this.
Sharing your purpose in wanting to connect may increase your chances of getting a positive response from a potential connection. Take care not to share too much about what you’ve learned about that person. You want to avoid coming off as intrusive. Instead, relay your interest in offering any help you can provide in return for any favor requests you make.
5 - Address Others by Proper Name and Title
Research the proper use of names and titles for specific countries when addressing international business leaders in your network online, in email, and in person. Addressing international business professionals by their first name is not well received in some countries, including Germany, where “Herr” and “Frau” may precede a business title. For example, “Frau Vorstandsvorsitzender,” meaning Mrs. Chairwoman, is an appropriate and safe way to address a female chairman and director.
6 - Follow International Greeting Customs
While the western handshake is generally recognized throughout the international business community, how it’s approached can vary between countries. For example, in the UAE, the most senior person is typically greeted first while saying their title, according to BBC Worklife (2). It’s not uncommon for business people in UAE to have drawn-out handshakes.
In China, a handshake is usually accompanied by a quick bow. Since the advent of the global pandemic, it can be hard to know if a handshake is agreeable for everyone. That’s why it’s good to pay attention to nonverbal and verbal clues that someone to determine if someone is amenable to handshakes.
7 - Scan Global Business Reports to Spark Conversations
Prepare for conversations by familiarizing yourself with information that’s relative to a member’s industry and country. The International Trade Administration offers international reports (3) prepared by the Commerce and State departments, plus other agencies at global U.S. Embassies. These reports detail business opportunities, cultural tips and customs, regulations and market conditions for 48 European countries, China and Hong Kong, the Western Hemisphere, Middle East and Africa, and Asia.
8 - Practice Fast Follow Up
It is important to follow up with potential business connections in a timely, professional manner. You will also want to exercise patience if an active or potential connection hasn’t shown timely responses to your communications or requests. Your expectations for timeliness may not be the same as those of your prospective connection, but don’t let that stop you from replying quickly when they do get back to you.
9 - Follow International Business Card Etiquette Guidelines
If you plan to conduct international business travel, consider having a business card specifically designed for that purpose.
Business cards in the U.S. and Canada typically measure 3.5 inches by 2 inches. However, international business card size in the majority of countries is 3.37 inches by 2.125 inches (85.6 mm by 53.98 mm), according to Envato Tuts+ (4). However, business card size can vary by country.
When you are designing a business card for international use, make sure to display your international contact phone number in the correct format. The Federal Communications Commission (5) offers tips for international business cards for more information.
How you exchange business cards with people from other countries and cultures can also have a lot of variations. There are important cultural differences (6) you’ll want to note, such as always using your right hand to present a business card to someone in India. Also, because academic degrees are highly valued in India, consider adding alumni and college degrees to your business card.
You can successfully build your international business network by paying attention to the business customs for other countries, such as following international business card guidelines, researching the industry and business practices of your prospective international connection, practicing timely follow-up in all communications, using accurate translations, and respecting proper greeting and title customs.
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