Unless you can speak fluent Chinese and have a decent understanding of the culture, communicating with your business connections in China can sometimes be frustrating. Find the right way and it could help you to breeze through the process, advises Ting Zhang, founder and CEO of Crayfish.io.
Says Ting: "In England, we still rely on email for every kind of business communication. However, email is only used for documentation inquiries or initial contacts in China. Instead people speak or call on WeChat – the software that almost everyone is using there. I’d be really surprised to find a person in China who does not use WeChat.
She explains: "Basically, WeChat is a combination of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, and a good thing about it is that you can get very personal with senior decision makers. For example, if I contact the managing director or general manager of a company through WeChat, I will get an immediate response."
Leveraging Chinese social media to benefit your business will be the subject of a further post from Crayfish.io, so watch this space.
Facetime, more than once
Ting continues: "Even with today's remote-control applications, nothing beats face to face time. If you want to do business in China, this is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is, the Chinese in business prefer face to face communication. What is more, it will help you with branding and creditability and will always help you to secure meetings with government officials or Chinese business leaders.
This is particularly important if you have a problem, she adds: "Instead of trying to solve it by email, I would suggest you go to China. For example, I used to work with a client in Cambridge whose business model is licensing and cell phone software. One day their sales director phoned me and said 'I'm just about to send an email to a company that owes us a fee of 1 million dollars. We are having an argument over whether they should pay us this fee and we've been back and forth with emails.'
"She asked me to have a final look at the email correspondence to see if I could help solve the problem. Without even reading through all 10 pages, I called her back immediately to suggest she visit the client in China instead of using email. She went and three days later called me to say that she had spent all day with her customer and solved the problem. This would not have been possible with email communications.
Don’t get lost in translation
“If you plan to visit China, make it productive. Make sure you confirm your meeting time with your clients before you leave, because in China, everything happens really fast. And make sure you have an interpreter who understands the cultural as well as the linguistic differences. If you want to do business in China, I suggest you have your own interpreter because you can control the quality and it will work so much better,” she adds.
Finding an interpreter to meet your needs is one of the ways Crayfish.io can assist people in business. It matches talented Chinese speaking professionals with Western businesses who need help in dealing with their Chinese partners and audiences, providing a source of qualified people to undertake projects and offer information, knowledge and cultural insight.
Business users post their projects on the Crayfish website and Chinese speaking provider bid for the work, with the transaction carried out through the Crayfish.io platform. Users pay a fee after they accept a service provider's proposal, with payment – less commission – released on completion of the job. The Crayfish team also offers to project manage on behalf of the client for larger and more complex tasks.