Friday, August 10, 2012

Selling translation services. Part 1

There are over 20,000 translation agencies in the world offering the same language services, but while the Top 100 bring in annual revenues totalling tens of millions of dollars, others don't even come close to 1% of that figure. So what is it that can turn your average translation companies into Sharks of the language business, and what selling techniques can you use to attract new clients?
Over the past few years I have attended various translation industry events and workshops – from the budget and fair priced to the excessively overpriced. Based on these experiences, I would like to share a few ideas which I hope you will find useful for your business.

The first thing everybody needs to understand is that selling a product entails asking questions. It's no big secret that the majority of salesmen in the translation industry start by outlining a wide array of services, outstanding translation quality, and of course innovative technologies (in most cases this innovative technology is simply Trados, but that’s another story). Well, here’s the secret – everybody does that! In basing your marketing on this approach, you're never going to stand out from the crowd. Chances are, your potential client doesn’t give a damn about how you market your product – finding a solution is all they're interested in!

The most important thing to remember is that you'll sell a lot more services if you start asking questions. But how to do it, right? I’ll get to this point later on in this series.

So to take my own advice, I will start this virtual sales training with some provocative questions:

  • Why are you special and why are you better than other Language Service Providers? If no idea comes into your mind, try to imagine instead: Why are you different? Every successful company is unique and special in some way, so ensure you have a good sales pitch before presenting it to your first major customer. For example, our company RixTrans ( uses the slogan “Your new generation of language service provider”, because we are young, innovative and successful. Who are you? How do your clients see you?
  • Are you providing your customers with the benefit of your expertise? According to the market survey “Marketing Language Services Online” by Common Sense Advisory, a leading market research company focused exclusively on globalisation, localisation and the translation business, just 65% of LSP websites are bilingual. Former German Chancellor Willy Brandt once said: “If I am selling to you, then I will speak your language, aber wenn du mir etwas verkaufst, dann muβt du Deutsch sprechen” (“...but if you want to sell something to me, then you have to speak German”). Your chances of gaining a new client are substantially higher if you speak your Clients’ language. And even if you don’t, your potential Client will feel special and honoured to see that your website translated into his or her mother tongue. Our homepage is also localized into the Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Estonian, Latvian and Russian languages, thanks to which we are receiving several new inquiries from these countries each week.
  • Why do your clients buy from you? If you can answer this question correctly then you're good to go and should start selling more services right away, because the same reasons why some companies buy from you can be used to target new clients. NB! I wouldn’t suggest you go with the “cheaper” option unless you want cheap clients: premium rates attract premium buyers.
  • Is selling a process in your company or a last resort when things are going badly? 

Here are a few things I recommend you think about before we move on to the second part of Selling Translation Services:

  • In the translation industry, you are the product. You are selling your time and your knowledge with the promise of specific results. Value your time, and invest it in sales and marketing activities rather than taking low paid jobs.
  • Consider your clients’ unique needs. Your clients want to be sure that you are flexible enough to meet their expectations.
  • Target local audiences in their local language, but please, make sure this content is translated, edited, revised, and proofread until it reads perfectly 'or you might look like JFK in Berlin when he said, 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'. I would also suggest preparing quotes in local currency.
  • Establish your credibility. When you are selling translation services, you are basically selling a relationship with yourself. Make sure your first date sticks in your clients’ memory, together with the hope of a long-lasting business relationship.
  • Make sure you have the resources to process new orders before you start to sell more: you'll never get the chance for a second date if you're not able to fulfill your commitments after the first one. If you've told your client that you have highly-qualified English–French translators available at all times, make damn sure they're available when your client contacts you.
  • Get as many referrals as you can, and always make follow-up enquiries with your existing clients! Are they happy with your services? Is there anything else you can do to make them happy? Do they know anyone else who might require translation or localization services too?
  • Don’t be afraid to remind previous customers that you're still in business! You have to consider that staff rotation is a common thing in business today, so bringing in new prospects is just one step towards global success: equally vital is following up on past and present clients.

RixTrans translation service agency offers professional high quality language translation within tight deadlines in major European and Scandinavian languages.
I hope you enjoyed reading the first part of our blog. Feel free to leave your comments here or on Twitter, and please remember to 'like' us on Facebook or G+1. Similarly, don't be shy in asking questions or suggesting new topics, and I’ll be more than happy to cover your theme in one of my later articles.