Tips to build trust with Foreign Customers and Suppliers

The world of foreign trade is complex. Diversity of cultures, different time zones and complicated import and export regulations are all present challenges when building strong relationships with foreign businesses. Even though it takes effort, it is of critical importance to build a strong trade relationship where both parties can benefit from the agreement. If you don’t invest sufficient time in building a strong relationship with your customer or supplier and something goes wrong, you might find yourself dragged into an expensive overseas lawsuit where you may lose. However, if you do manage to build a strong relationship, chances are good that it will lead to increased business. It might even enable you to negotiate more favourable terms. 

Here are 3 tips to consider when building a strong relationship with foreign customers and suppliers:

1). Establish effective communication

The potential for misunderstandings and communication gaps can create obstacles in dealing with foreign businesses. Simple acts such as routine telephone calls or meeting times can be hindered by time differences and low-quality phone connections. It is therefore vitally important to carefully plan face to face meetings and frequent telephonic or Skype calls. Language can also be a hindrance in building trust with a foreign supplier. Decide beforehand which language to use in conversations. If the language is not widely recognised by you or your employees, acquire the help of local interpreters to avoid misunderstanding. However, if it is widely spoken, make sure your employees have the necessary linguistic skills to deal with your suppliers.

2). Build trust gradually

Issues are more than likely to occur in the early stages of a supplier-buyer relationship. Therefore it is sensible not to leave anything to chance. An overseas supplier, for example, may require proof of payment before sending a shipment out the door. A phone call assuring your supplier that the cheque is in the mail will not suffice. It is therefore vital that all copies of transactions made or any currency orders relating to a specific proof of a transaction are kept. Draw up written contracts that are clear and unambiguous. Typically your first contracts with a new supplier will be on a project-by-project or shipment-by-shipment basis. The key is to build the trading relationship slowly.  If problems do occur during the process, decide together how to resolve them. As the relationship develops you may move to longer contract periods.

3). Learn cultural and social differences

Each culture is unique, with a preferred way of dealing with difficult situations. Visiting a business partner overseas might seem daunting at first, especially if you’ve never been confronted with cultural and social differences. To turn the blind eye to these differences might not be helpful in building a strong trust relationship with your supplier. Invest the proper time to learn the correct meeting protocols, religious rituals and greeting styles of the country. It will also be useful to understand the communication differences in order to better solve conflict situations or to facilitate negotiations. Soon you will discover that you are not only enriched financially, but as a person as well.

For more information on how to build a strong relationship with a foreign supplier, and  more original resources, leading-edge training and assistance with customs licenses & foreign exchange on TradeLogistics.

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