Prepping Clients for a visit to a new supplier
by Andreas Grundtvig & Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade & Andreas Grundtvig 2017
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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Andreas Grundtvig teaches at the BMK (Media and Communication) School in Hamburg, Germany and also manages the Cambridge Assessment Examinations Centre there. He is a regular conference speaker, delivering workshops on, and writing about, pragmatic competence and applied linguistics. Beginning his ELT career in Spain in 1994, he has spent over a decade in academic management. His former students range from ministers and entrepreneurs to suppliers of aviation equipment.
Phil Wade is a Business English teacher, coach and author of over 20 ebooks, including the BESIG David Riley award winning ‘Presentation Lesson Hacks’ and the ‘A 10 minute intro to Business English Teaching’ series, and is co-author of ‘10 Quick Prep 1-2-1 Business English Activities About Work Life’ along with Noreen Lam.
Kati Bilsborough has been drawing, designing and making things since a young age. After getting a degree in Interior Design, and doing an internship with a design company, Kati decided to explore other areas of design including Graphics, Web Design and Illustration. This led to creating ELT ebook covers for numerous writers and organisations, one of which won the BESIG David Riley award for innovation. She is currently working on original artwork for a primary coursebook and is designing materials for an online English course.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @bilsdesigns and on [+ Facebook+].
The idea behind “Prepping Clients for…” was to create a series of short and very niche ebooks on specific events that 1-2-1 Business English teachers, trainers and coaches help clients prepare for. Download the other ebooks:
[+ Prepping Clients for Financial Reporting+]
1. To research a supplier
Before meeting with a supplier, clients need to identify their requirements and requisites, research a supplier, and decide what the supplier should be capable of delivering. Researching this in English provides students with the lexis they need for a prospective B2B (client-supplier) meeting but they must also be able to understand and use it effectively.
2. To say what you mean and get what you want
Clients must not only have an awareness of differences in corporate culture (in such areas as respect and leadership, product knowledge, humour, and individual or team effort and responsibility) but also the language to demonstrate this, and be able to speak in terms of the business partner’s wants. This should lead to mutual understanding and agreement, which ultimately ensures the client gets what he/she wants.
3. To express interest but avoid being overly enthusiastic
While the supplier’s initial offer may be very tempting, clients will need sufficient language skills to be able to bargain, and express interest without commitment. Maintaining the negotiation until a better offer is put forth is important at this point. Clients need to choose their words and expressions tactfully so as not to appear too keen too soon. By using an inappropriate phrase, the client could inadvertently lead the supplier in the early stages of the negotiation to thinking there is a done deal. In turn, making it increasingly difficult for the client to backtrack and bargain for more. Whereas, if the client shows too little interest initially, the supplier may lose hope in doing business at all and thus avoid making further offers.
4. To identify workable capabilities and make suggestions for improvement
Building on strengths, rather than compensating for weaknesses, in a partnership will lead to a win-win agreement. The client will often need to make suggestions for changes to the supply terms or delivery methods. Armed with the language to do this, students can successfully get the supplier to not just agree and act upon their proposals but also understand the benefit of doing so. Creating and maintaining a healthy working relationship is what CRM is all about.
5. To agree on common objectives and create an action plan
Once a mutual working agreement has been made, the next step is to create a fixed plan of action. This involves agreeing on the contract terms, such as setting realistic and achievable goals, and setting up a plan B in case things do not go to plan. All of this requires being able to hypothesise, make fresh proposals, and diplomatically disagree. For example, what actions should be taken if the supplier’s suggestions are not able to be implemented.
1. Create a webquest
Ask your client to write down a list of what that they look for when choosing a supplier. This could include things such as: evidence of commitment/service; quality control; reliability; a proven track record etc. When finished, ask them to share this with you and verbally make any corrections to the English.
Ask him/her to compile a list of questions they believe would be able to find the answers to by looking at a supplier’s website. Help them with phrasing.
Check if they have a device with internet access or give them your tablet or laptop. Then ask them to find a suitable supplier and locate the answers to their questions. Give them about a minute per question.
When they are done, request a summary of this supplier, with references to questions and answers, and an honest verdict on how likely they are to do business with them and their reasoning.
2. Ten words to get what you want
Describe an example from your working life of how a specific choice of words once led to a successful relationship or breakdown in communication. This could be when you or your interlocutor misunderstood the tone of what was implied or a word was not recognised. ASAP, for example, is very popular but can lead to lots of problems if there is a difference in the understanding of the word ‘soon’. In one culture this could mean ‘immediately’ and in another it may simply mean ‘when you can, i.e. within a week or so. Next, ask your client to do the same.
Elicit any differences in the clients’ and their suppliers’ corporate cultures. This could include things such as: openness to new ideas instead of traditional methods, or levels of formality used between management and employees. Is there a difference in the organisational hierarchy or the understanding of punctuality? Ask the client about the consequences of different understandings of these between companies doing business together?’
Now say that you have a list of important words that can make a powerful impression on the people that they do business with and ask the class to come up with their own list. Give them time to do this and write down the suggestions. After that, dictate this list:
Because, thanks, you, if, could, we, together, fact, open, will
Discuss both lists and ask them to justify why the words are powerful and role-play the examples. Ask them ‘how might the perception of these differ from different cultural perspectives?’
3. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise
Give the client the following expressions on a piece of paper or show them on the board/a tablet and ask them to rank them in order of interest shown by the speaker, from very interested to not interested:
Sounds good; Wow! that’s amazing; interesting; Oh, I see!; I don’t mind; I couldn’t agree more!; I see/hear what you’re saying…
Ask if they can be misinterpreted depending on the intonation used? Then elicit and add any other expressions that they are already familiar with to the list.
Now, choose a either a product from the students’ business or simply a random object in the room (e.g. an item of stationery) and ask the students to try to sell this to you. As they do so, ask questions or show their interest by using the words from their list to maintain the negotiation with accepting an offer. Make notes so that you can give feedback and discuss their achievement at the end of the task.
4. Supply and deliver, your money or your strife!
Ask your client to create a SWOT analysis of their cooperation with one or several of their current suppliers. Then ask them to focus on the strengths and explain or discuss how these can be used to overcome the threats and weaknesses. Elicit how they could use this approach to create win-win agreements.
Elicit examples from the client of where agreements over supply or delivery were altered either by themselves or by their business partner. Tell the client that in English, politeness is often the key to making such changes. Ask them to think about the language they use in these discussions to get want they want. Is it more typical of what’s known as ‘negative politeness’ (getting what you want while maintaining respect, e.g. by being indirect or by being pessimistic ‘I don’t suppose you could…’, ) or ‘positive politeness’ (being liked by others, e.g. by suggesting a team effort ‘could/might we…’ and ‘let’s’)?
Role-play some supply and delivery change scenarios and experiment with the roles and the two types of politeness. Record them and then analyse and discuss which was more effective and why.
5. And action!
Ask the client to compile an action plan check list for a proposed or hypothetical B2B cooperation. Which things would they expect agreement on in the first week, month and year? What questions should they ask to make sure the things they listed are going to plan. Now ask your client to search for an explanation of rollover/rolling forecasts on the internet and then explain this to you in their own words. Do they think that this kind of planning could work for them? Why/Why not?
1. Swot up using online sources and connections then compare notes
Information is power, so take time between sessions to swot up on companies your client mentions as current suppliers, possible ones and any you come across which are related. Ask questions about them to show your interest and to create meaningful conversations.
2. Get a feel for the atmosphere and type of English
Find out everything you can about the atmosphere and culture of the company via questions, the website and, if you teach on-site, walk around to get a feeling of what working there is like. Also, research all their output available in English. They will have a specific style of speaking and especially writing. Get exposed to as much of it as you can. The more you understand and can use it, the better you will be at communicating with the client as an insider
3. Pick up on any buzzwords they use to practice
Your client’s company and industry will probably use certain jargon, buzzwords and these will change. Don’t just wait for them to pop up, ask the client about them and keep a running list which you should utilise in sessions.
4. Focus on business and English
To go beyond being just being a general English teacher who does classes for a business person, become engaged in the industry, the company, and their activities. Show interest, ask questions, learn from the client and be more of a business trainer or coach. This means assisting a business client and specialising in the language they need to do business successfully. This will help you to be perceived as a professional trainer – not a teacher.
5. Be mindful of English weaknesses
Clients will have certain weaknesses and fossilised errors. They may even be aware about some of them. Your job is not to be a primary school teacher and constantly highlight and correct them. This can be very demotivating. Your job as a trainer is to be supportive. Try to focus on the positives and be sure to note good progress. Help them to spot problems, correct them, and create a culture of progress. You can even ask the client how much correction they like and how they want it. When correction starts to demotivate them and destroys the learning atmosphere, it clearly is wrong. It can be a long road to changing ingrained behaviour, so make it a supportive positive learning experience.
A short ebook to help business English teachers trainers and coaches help clients prepare for visiting a new supplier. Cover design by www.bilsboroughdesigns.com .