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Approaching direct clients - finding the right person in a company
Thread poster: Mark Hemming
Mark Hemming  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 08:53
Member (2009)
Slovenian to English
+ ...
May 26, 2016

I've set working with direct clients as a real priority for this year, and want to know if you have any golden tips for making this happen.

So far I have a huge list of potential businesses working in my fields and pairs and have started the laborious process of contacting clients and touting my translation wares.

One problem is finding the right person within a company. It's incredibly easy to get an info@genericbusiness.com email address for a company, but I suspect these addresses get a stack of spam and my message will not get to the desired person.

My question is the following - who is the best person to speak to in a company to offer your services, and how do you get their contact details?

Any advice will be gratefully received.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
One tip that has worked for me in the past May 26, 2016

I've found that phone calls are more productive (but email works too) -- the most important thing is to find out who to speak to without sounding like a salesperson. So normally I ask something like, "Who do I speak to about your product documentation?" and if they ask for more information about why I'm calling, this line works: "I'm interested in learning more about what information goes into the manuals and catalogues and how it's put together." Or something along those lines. Clients LOVE to talk about themselves, so they will usually oblige. And the people in charge of product documentation (or the communications department or some other department depending on your field of specialisation) are probably closer to the decision making process for translation than others.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:53
German to English
Please don't call people. May 27, 2016

Please don't call people unless you feel very certain that a potential client urgently (an e-mail or letter wouldn't come to his or her attention fast enough) needs precisely what you are offering. My understanding is that most people find cold-call sales pitches intensely annoying, but maybe that is an inaccurate generalization of my own experiences.

A lot of websites have pretty detailed "contact" or "our team" or "who we are" pages and you can use that information to find the best person. You can generally make a well-informed guess about who is likely to be interested (press, PR, documentation, etc.) and there is no reason to not send a letter to more than one person there. If a business doesn't offer this information on their site, just go to the next business on your list.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:53
German to English
+ ...
Phone contact is a cultural thing May 27, 2016

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Please don't call people unless you feel very certain that a potential client urgently (an e-mail or letter wouldn't come to his or her attention fast enough) needs precisely what you are offering. My understanding is that most people find cold-call sales pitches intensely annoying, but maybe that is an inaccurate generalization of my own experiences.


I only agree with you about this, Michael, when talking about Germany, where impromptu phone contact with businesses is not the norm nor where many people feel comfortable with that type of spontaneity. There are perfectly understandable cultural reasons for it, but in my native US, cold calling is quite acceptable. We love to pick up the phone and talk to people generally, and that is one thing I really miss about the US living here in Germany.

So I wouldn't generalize about calling potential clients. It really depends on the customs/preferences of the country you are targeting, so go for it if it is appropriate. I don't think e-mail contact is very effective anymore, since businesspeople are generally swamped with it. At least you could call to find out who the contact person is for your particular purpose for more specific targeting. In my case I would start with the marketing department, but that is because of my specialization.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:53
German to English
As another American living in Germany May 27, 2016

I haven't lived in the US for 14 years, but I get back there every year. I don't know about the B2B situation, but my mother gets bombarded by multiple sales calls every day (many of them to her cell phone!) and almost all of the calls are made by a machine: If you answer, an automated voice asks you to wait for a sales representative or some other human being.

I never had a business in the US, but I always found B2C cold-calling annoying, even when I still lived there.

I am fairly talkative when clients call me on the phone here, but that is because I work alone at a desk in a home office (but maybe also because I'm American) and because they are people whom I generally like, with whom I have an actual business relationship, and who actually have something interesting to talk with me about.
The last sales call I got was a few weeks ago from someone at some stupid UK agency who couldn't even speak proper German or English. I would have been much happier if they had just spammed me by e-mail instead of by phone. They would also have had a higher chance of success that way (0.1% instead of 0%).
In the end, you should do what works, and Angela has written that she personally had more success using the phone and Woodstock is also right that the general tendencies in different countries (and branches as well as types of business) can vary greatly.


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Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:53
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
Direct clients, do they exist?! May 27, 2016

I have just made a search in the videos section of Proz.
I searched "Direct Clients" and I only found one video: Tips for Dealing with Direct Clients. So, on proz, out of more than 600 videos, there isn't still a single video about finding direct clients. Am I wrong?
During every translation conference I have attended, there were enthusiastic speakers who talked about how wonderful it is to work with direct clients, but they never said how to actually find them.
I've been in this business for over 6 years, and I have always worked with translation agencies, but I am quite fed up about the frequent lack of professionalism and their absurd requests. So I would really like to find new direct clients, but it seems an extremely difficult task. In my particular case, pharmaceutical companies prefer to deal with other companies, like translation agencies, and not with individual translators. So, it would really be nice to know how to actually find direct clients, instead of just praising their qualities..


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:53
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Direct clients exist - but what do you have to offer? May 28, 2016

And what do they need.

Larger companies usually need a lot of languages, so a single working from home translator is probably not the right option for them (especially if they have holidays, other clients and the shopping and laundry to take care of)

So smaller clients then? They might actually need 1 (or perhaps 2) languages for their website to attract additional clients from neigbouring countries... So check their websites, if it's a crap translation, it might have been done internally -- SO be carefull when contacting then and reporting you can do a much better job - - you might be talking to the person who made it !!
Other options include a bad external translator (which is good, but they usually work for a low budget) or machine translation (even less money to make here)...

But unless you are a foreigner living outside of your home country, it's unlikely they need your (native) language to translate documents to (i.e. if you are Dutch, most Dutch companies do not need Dutch tranlator)...

Now where do you meet all of these business owners????

At Tradeshows (but they will be looking to sell their own products there, and probably won't have time to listen to your sales story) - - if you go that way , do make appointments and I believe there where a few reports of some ladies visiting a large German technical trade fair somewhere...

At coffee mornings for local businesses (usually a fix of freelancers going somewhere out of the safery of their own homes) ... here is the best option to score I guess, because people are often starting up, so they might need a website, product photography, a business plan and even some translations (it would help if you have contacts in foreign languages, so act like an agecy here...)

The rare gems of foreign companies looking for direct single tranlators (and who manage all of the additional work of the various languages) themselves are a great mystery... sometimes they pass by on Proz, or other sites... keep your eyes open wide.. (or visit coffee mornings in cities right across the border ??)

---
Ed


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Phone calls are cultural and also depend on your personality, IMO May 30, 2016

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Angela has written that she personally had more success using the phone and Woodstock is also right that the general tendencies in different countries (and branches as well as types of business) can vary greatly.


I work mainly with Germans, and yes, Germans absolutely hate cold-calling but in my experience they are more hostile if they are sent unsolicited email, as this practice is against the law and is usually specifically stated on their company's website as a breach of the law and of their T&Cs. (I have never sent unsolicited email to Germans but my old boss used to do that all the time and the response he got was NOT positive.) If your email is personalised a bit more, you may have a better response but in general Germany and Austria do not respond well to email approaches at all.

But I'm not really talking about cold-calling as in, you have a list of companies and you ring up each one on the same day and ask if they need printer ink (or in this case, translation services). I'm talking about doing some research about the company, preferably knowing who they are from having met someone in person at a trade fair or some other place, and then calling up with the purpose of talking about THEM, not about translation necessarily, not about what I can do for them, just calling up and asking about how their process works and then seeing if I can fit into that and offer them anything useful.

I think your success on the phone will have a lot to do with whether your personality suits it. If you are comfortable networking with strangers and talking on the phone, and you are able to build up a rapport with others in this way, then calling on the phone will be a successful strategy for you, if you manage to get past the receptionists and whoever else stands between you and the decision-maker you need to make contact with.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Seconded May 30, 2016

Edward Vreeburg wrote:
Direct clients exist - but what do you have to offer?
And what do they need.

I entirely agree with the whole posting.

In the case of trade fairs, I think the approach is more to seize the opportunity of getting to know the latest technologies. When approaching a person at a stand, it is probably best to be upfront and explain that you are a translator specializing in the matter at hand and that you are trying to grasp what's new in the trade. This way, the person speaking to you has a chance to gauge how much time they can reasonably spend with you.

The conversation might not necessarily lead to a customer, but you will learn things that will definitely help you in any translation in the same subject area, and it also allows you to show that you know the subject matter. Of course, you can leave your business card... and who knows! In our profession, it is leaving a good impression, seeding, and simply 'being there' what ultimately leads to customers in the long run.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 00:53
German to English
+ ...
about direct calls May 30, 2016

(pondering what Michael had to say)
When I started out, I actually took the advice of a senior colleague which was to call companies (agencies in this case since I was starting out), asking if they wanted my information on my services, and if they did, I sent it. It would have a "In reference to our telecom on (date)" and the name of the person I had talked to. Maybe 20% of the people I called wanted my information and they're the ones who got it. These were agencies, already in the business of translation, so I don't know if that makes a difference.

I also get spam phone calls, and way too many of them. What makes them annoying is:
- a recording - they don't have the time to talk to me, but they expect me to waste my time listening to them
- a live person, but giving a pre-memorized sales pitch which they can't deviate from, nor do they really understand their product or service
- a lengthy wind-up, which tends to be devious, dishonest, manipulative, and beside the point

So would a simple, short, direct call, going straight to the point, be different?

Last week I got a call from someone from "Sweden" with a Swedish accent, doing a "survey" and out of curiosity I answered it. At the end, the woman "recommended" that I try some kind of cream that had been created by "doctors", and her calm Swedish demeanour changed to something I'd describe as frantic and hysterically enthusiastic. I resent dishonesty. If you want to sell me a cream, tell me so in your first sentence and I might even listen. If you say you are doing a survey, stick with the survey.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The way May 30, 2016

Mark Hemming wrote:

...and how do you get their contact details?


If the person's contact details are not published, there is a reason for it.

Now, if you still want to push on and get those contact details, this is the way:

1. Find the company you are going to target
2. Go to LinkedIn and locate the company there
3. Find who the employees of that company are
4. Brows through the list of those employees and locate the relevant person based on their title
5. Check if this person has their contact details on their public profile
6. If not, send them an invitation to connect
7. If no reaction, try to guess their email address based on name.last name@company domain.com (play with different combinations)

Again, I insist that if person's contact details are not published, they might get upset when you try to contact them. I hate this practice. Many sales people do not care and use it, though. This is the reason I am a translator, not sales person (even though I do have to engage in light marketing-related activities, but certainly not at this scale).

Good luck!

Ah, and make sure you have capacity for 20,000 words in 8 different languages to be delivered in 3 days, since that's what large direct clients need. In other words, think about setting up an agency. Be empathic. Think as a procurement manager at a large company would think. You certainly wouldn't want to deal with 8 different translators and editors for a translation project.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:53
Member (2008)
French to English
B2B telemarketing in North America May 30, 2016

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Please don't call people unless you feel very certain that a potential client urgently (an e-mail or letter wouldn't come to his or her attention fast enough) needs precisely what you are offering. My understanding is that most people find cold-call sales pitches intensely annoying, but maybe that is an inaccurate generalization of my own experiences.



In North America at any rate, B2B cold calls are generally acceptable and even expected, as being necessary for business. However, when made to consumers they are subject to regulation, which is another story altogether.


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 07:53
German to English
+ ...
You can find direct clients by contacting them in their language. May 30, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

Ah, and make sure you have capacity for 20,000 words in 8 different languages to be delivered in 3 days, since that's what large direct clients need. In other words, think about setting up an agency. Be empathic. Think as a procurement manager at a large company would think. You certainly wouldn't want to deal with 8 different translators and editors for a translation project.


This is not necessarily true in all situations. Companies from non-English-speaking countries, that want to export their goods and services, often need a translation into English only. According to my experience, this is especially true for B2B relations between German-speaking countries and the rest of the world. Finding direct clients can therefore be very rewarding for translators translating into English. However, they need to be able to contact these direct clients in their language. An active written and oral command of the translator's source language is an absolute necessity for these endeavors. If they are not able to talk or write to a direct client in this client's first language the client will doubt the translator's skills, because they are not used to translators who translate into their native language only.

[Edited at 2016-05-30 16:05 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 07:53
French to English
agencies and direct clients May 31, 2016

Bruno Depascale wrote:

I have always worked with translation agencies, but I am quite fed up about the frequent lack of professionalism and their absurd requests.


I'm not sure that direct clients are any more professional or less absurd. One of the things I like about working for (good) agencies, is that the sales force and project managers have done some of the spade work, explaining stuff like what a decent rate is and how much you can reasonably expect a translator to produce in a day, and that if they have any jargon requirements, it needs to be specified beforehand and preferably in a translation-friendly format.

Then again, direct clients can pay better and you can establish a more satisfying relationship, learning more about their corporate culture and products, meaning that you can then produce much better translations. You get all the stupid questions that are normally fielded by the PM ("why did you write the date like that?" "why didn't you translate the address?" "but you don't need to write the month with a capital letter")


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Texte Style
Local time: 07:53
French to English
translating into rather than out of English May 31, 2016

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:

Merab Dekano wrote:

Ah, and make sure you have capacity for 20,000 words in 8 different languages to be delivered in 3 days, since that's what large direct clients need. In other words, think about setting up an agency. Be empathic. Think as a procurement manager at a large company would think. You certainly wouldn't want to deal with 8 different translators and editors for a translation project.


This is not necessarily true in all situations. Companies from non-English-speaking countries, that want to export their goods and services, often need a translation into English only. According to my experience, this is especially true for B2B relations between German-speaking countries and the rest of the world. Finding direct clients can therefore be very rewarding for translators translating into English. However, they need to be able to contact these direct clients in their language. An active written and oral command of the translator's source language is an absolute necessity for these endeavors. If they are not able to talk or write to a direct client in this client's first language the client will doubt the translator's skills, because they are not used to translators who translate into their native language only.

[Edited at 2016-05-30 16:05 GMT]

exactly!

Of course large corporations are often going to want several languages. However, if you target small businesses, they're likely to go for one other language and that will be English. This may be one of the advantages of translating into rather than out of English.

Then again, you do have to persuade them that your English is good. Mostly if your source language is up to par that inspires confidence. Nowadays I have to slightly exaggerate my English accent, apparently I've passed the tipping point (yes I'm chuffed!)
As an example of persuading clients of your talent for expression in English: As I specialise in fashion, I often use the word "badass", it's very much a buzzword. My French clients are pretty dubious about it. I'm now putting together a set of links to prove that it's used in a positive way.


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