Six Tips on Business Etiquette with Overseas Clients

Posted by The Icehouse on 9/08/2019 12:37:20 PM

Every Kiwi business owner understands the value of export. We’re an island nation (well, two), with a relatively small population, so it’s hard to survive and thrive on the ‘generosity’ of our domestic market.

In 2017 China knocked Australia off the top spot as our largest trading partner, and with one eye on Brexit, it’s essential to keep up to date on how to do business internationally. 



1 | Celebrate the difference

Success overseas comes down to many factors, but did you know you can get a competitive edge and impress prospective customers by following a few simple rules around business etiquette

Obviously, it pays to do your research and go in deeper, but here’s a quick bluffer’s guide to top business etiquette in some of our key markets.

2 | Check your calendars

If you’re arranging face-to-face meetings, it pays to check whether the country you’re visiting – or receiving visitors from, has unique national holiday dates. Basically, don’t schedule a meeting during a Chinese holiday, for example – a date which might not be recognised in ‘western’ culture.

3 | Enter the room appropriately

Chinese business places great importance on hierarchy, often entering a room in hierarchical order - with the most senior person entering first. Try mirroring that when you meet up, and take note when doing the introductions. Shake hands with the most senior person first.



4 | Receiving business cards

This is a multi-layered minefield. It’s well known that you must be respectful when accepting a business card in certain cultures. In Japan, take the card with both hands and spend a few moments to study it, holding it by the bottom corners. Carefully place it in a business folder or case – don’t just stuff into your back pocket or wallet or purse.

However, in Korea, you’ll need to go one step further –  passing and receiving a card with the right hand is expected. The left hand shows a lack of respect. 

5 | Go multilingual

If overseas travel is high on your agenda, it might be worth printing business cards in more than one language. This shows that you have taken the time and trouble to understand and appreciate their culture. It will be a long way. Pay for a professional translation service rather than relying on a team member from a particular culture to do the translation for you.

6 | Don’t be late

In Germany, it is imperative to turn up on time for meetings as lateness is frowned upon. Similarly, meetings cannot overrun. However, in other parts of Europe, such as France and the UK, it is acceptable if a meeting overruns by five or ten minutes. But no more. If you’re running behind in Japan or China, it is important to call ahead and let them know.

What next?

So, the basic message is: ‘do your homework’. Making a good first impression can make a real difference to building lasting relationships with international suppliers and customers.

It’s simple enough to check online what you should wear for meetings, how to greet and address people correctly, and how to communicate generally.

For more business and leadership advice check out more of our blogs.

Topics: Sales