Part 1 of 2
Dear Betty Sue Export Queen
Did you know there are over 300 types of seaweed? We manufacture a line of spa products utilizing our local seaweed here in Steilacoom (pronounced STILL-a-come), Washington. Last month an executive from a Colombian company tried our product while visiting on vacation. It made her look ten years younger. She loved it!
Little did we know that she is the Sr. VP of marketing for one of the largest beauty companies in Colombia. She wants to bring the CEO to meet us! We are so excited but so nervous. Betty Sue, this is bigger than big and we don’t want to mess up. What do we need to know to start off the meeting right and carry it through? Our future may depend on you, please help!
Dear Rhonda Rhodophyta,
We are as proud as plump peaches for your success! International will be just one more feather in your cap. Being from the Dallas area, home to Mary Kay, we all know her famous quote, “You have only one chance to make a good first impression”, so of course, that is what we want you to do!
As my Mama said, if you don’t know how to dance, best find ya an expert to teach ya before ya step on any toes. Our expert knows ALL the steps. My friend and colleague Patricia Moore,CEO of Sentrum International has had years of protocol experience serving as Consul of Colombia to Norway and Iceland. She deals with all aspects of export services for her international clients and of course cultural questions do arise. Let’s ask Patricia what we need to know to make a great first impression and carry it through.
Betty Sue Export Queen, a proud plump peach ready to try your seaweed facial
Dear Rhonda Rhodophyta,
There are many key points to address your concerns so we will do it in two parts.
Mary Kay is absolutely right; this is your chance to make the right impression as long as you know which one it is. First, get rid of any stereotypes you may have about the local culture in order to make a long lasting and productive relation with the locals of Colombia.
Most South Americans will not take a cold call from an unknown person, but since you met the VP of Marketing you may email her back and make any introduction you need to. Now you have a personal relationship that will help you “open that window”.
When emailing salutation is a must. Always address people in proper form and depending on which culture. Use Mrs. or courtesy titles until invited to do otherwise. Open with a nice an honest concern on a safe trip back and that all was well upon her return. When using the subject line be friendly and direct. Ex: A pleasure reviewing a mutually beneficial opportunity.
Request a mutual date and time to have a conference call and specify the reason and time needed. Looking for foreign representative is a delicate subject and you want to take your time to go through details.
For the Conference Call Meeting: call the assistant ahead to remind and confirm the call. Punctuality in Latin America is not as important as it is here. If she wants to reschedule don’t take it personally and respond in a cordial way.
Conference call: It is most probable that Mrs. VP had invited others to participate in the conference call without letting you know in advance. Let everyone introduce themselves and be mindful with their names and referring to them occasionally. You might end up working directly with one or all of them.
In Part 2 we will address cultural protocol when actually meeting with you Colombian client.
Patricia Moore, CEO, Sentrum International
*Seaweed (marine algae), primarily for human consumption is a large and expanding industry in Japan. In contrast, seaweed culture is still in a research phase in the United States. There is production in Peru and Brazil, while Chile has succeeded in establishing a sustainable seaweed-harvesting plan for most of the economically important