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May 30, 2019

How US Clients Request Meeting Times & How To Answer/Decline

In special cases where meetings are high priority, urgent, or scheduled or rescheduled based on our availability simply pressing no on a meeting invite is not the ideal way of declining such requests. While there are many different kinds of meeting requests and refusal responses, let's take a look at one example while applying strategies that can be used to decline any meeting in a collaborative, professional way. 

The client wants to meet only with you or maybe with a few other stakeholders, but you are a key player in this meeting. The client offers you a few different meeting times, and you aren't yet sure which one fits into your schedule. How do you respond? 

Step 1: You Receive and Read the E-mail
Collaborating and negotiating meeting times is an art form!
Collaborating and negotiating meeting
times is an art form!
Sample e-mail (you receive this on a Monday morning): 

Sini, 

Greetings. Hope you are well.
We would like to plan an additional status meeting this week to discuss some of the  approaching deadlines. I have listed below a few times I am free to meet with you. Please confirm which one you can attend.

Tuesday, January 3, 5pm IST
Tuesday, January 3, 7:30pm IST
Wednesday, January 4, 4:30pm IST

I'll be looking forward to your confirmation as soon as possible.

Regards,

Frank (US Client)


How to Answer this Kind of Request

Take note that the client would respond to confirm only ONE of the suggested times (if he or she offers two solutions, most likely they are prioritized). If you get a request like this NEVER request the client to set aside all times, chose only one. It's like a multiple choice test, choose the best of three and confirm that. Once confirmed, that is the set meeting time.


Step 2: Considering a Response
How do you respond when you read this Monday at 9am when you enter the office? The problem is that you are not yet sure when you can meet. Do you let the client know you're not sure, or wait until you have a time confirmed?

Sometimes the problem with waiting to confirm a time is that you will not be able to confirm the time until Tuesday, and then a whole business day has passed without communicating with the US client. This will make the client uncomfortable, nervous and will make him think you are not being responsible in attending to your e-mails. This will not build trust. It is not a good idea for rapport building with US clients. (This can also be the case for any Indians onsite with clients as they will need to see clients directly at the office. Respond as proactively with your onsite contacts as you would directly with the US client.)

Answer the email immediately (they will see the time stamp) with your tentative status.

Example response sent Monday at 9am. (Respond by hitting "reply" and double checking the subject line for accuracy.)

Frank,


Happy Monday! Hope you had a nice weekend.


I am glad you emailed me to initiate this meeting. Our team does have a lot of updates to share.


My first reaction is to choose Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30pm. I will confirm this by the end of the business day today.


Thank you,
Regards,

Sini

Sini will need to respond to this email thread once again at the end of the business day whether or not the meeting is confirmed.

Step 3: Responding with Confirmation or Changes

-Meeting time confirmed-  (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,

Good day. I am writing back again to confirm the meeting. We shall be ready on the conference call tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30pm. I will look forward to seeing the agenda.

Thank you.
Regards,

Sini

-Meeting time not confirmed-- (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,


Good day.

I was discussing this meeting with the other colleagues who will have to attend, and they are also confirming the time. As of now the time - Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30 is still tentative. I will write back to confirm or deny this by tomorrow morning Indian business time.

Regards,
Sini

Sini will need to write back to confirm or deny the meeting 9am Indian time the next business morning. If the meeting is confirmed, the answer is straightforward. If it is not, confirm the third time given, or suggest another time. It's better, though to accept other times originally given than adding new times.


What NEVER to do
NEVER avoid responding if you don't know when to meet. ALWAYS respond to these emails in a timely way (within a few hours of seeing it). The clients are taking the time to ask for your time. This is a serious request for an American. They will wait in anticipation for your response. If there is no response, they will think you simply are not reading or caring to respond to your emails. This does not set a good impression.

Conclusion
The lesson in this email is to proactively keep in touch with your US counterparts or points of contact in the US to keep communication flowing regularly. We provide tailored coaching to your offshore teams on email skills, meeting management with US clients, working on cross-cultural virtual teams and more. Contact us to discuss further.


Related Posts: 
Things to NOT do in business e-mails
Avoid doing these things in e-mails with US counterparts
Declining Holiday Invitations, Party Invites from US Americans 




Networked blogs link: http://networkedblogs.com/TMuQo
Updated July 2015, May 2019 

May 25, 2019

Use of Titles - Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.

When & How to Use Titles - Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.
Do you want to know how to use the titles, Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr. in a Western, or specifically U.S., business setting

Or, maybe you're confused how and when to use Ma'am, Sir and other titles with strangers or people you have just met? 

This video reviews the dos and don'ts of title use in Western Business English. These tips would apply to working with and interacting with U.S. Americans, Canadians, Australians and the British. 



Jennifer Kumar helps your offshore team members create a striking and positive first impression with your U.S. counterparts in face-to-face or virtual environments, or via e-mail.

Related Posts: 
How to use the phrase 'excuse me' 
How to make a good handshake 
How to start a conversation

May 16, 2019

An Example of a Really, Really Bad Cold E-mail

There are no dearth of IT companies in India. I sure many pop up on a daily basis. And, they all want business. So, they hire a few people under the title of Business Developers to start cold emailing or cold calling prospects. Over the last few years, I have provided some tips to such companies. But, in this post, I want to share an actual example of a cold email I got, and my response to them.

In fact, this is not the first time I have responded to these cold emails with tips to improve. Typically, I never get a response. But, hopefully they may take these tips to improve their business development skills. 

The email (name and email ID changed to protect identity):


Matt Smith <online.mail345y@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Could we discuss?

Hi ,

We are an IT agency having offices in USA, AUS, India, UK at the moment.

We are expert in the following:

ü  Custom App Development (iPhone, Android)
ü  Mobile App Testing
ü  CRM/ERP systems
ü  GPS Based Apps. (Taxi, Food delivery Apps)
ü  E-Commerce Solutions & Graphic Design
ü  Mobile App Testing

Please revert us if you are interested. (Share your project requirements) and your contact details. (Skype, phone number, Etc)

Beat Regards

Matt Smith


Here's my response:


To answer your email, Matt,

I doubt you'll get many takers. Here are the reasons:
  • This email is not addressed to anyone. A quick view of my site, would provide some team members names.
  • Your email ID is gmail, so no business email ID. Also the email user name is very weird. Seems spammy.
  • And, your business name is actually not mentioned anywhere in the email. 
  • And, you do not talk about my site/business and what exactly you can do for me. Yours is a generic email. It can be sent out as a mass email.


Tell me, if this email came to you, would you answer it? What would you do?

I somehow feel that you're based in India, and using an assumed American name.

I actually provide cross cultural training to teams like yours working between the US and India to bridge culture gaps and get more business relationships.

Here are some blogs to help you:

So, to your sales email, I have written a sales email. But hopefully I have provided you some ideas to improve your approach to prospects. Feel free to get in touch with me to work with your team.

Regards,
Jennifer Kumar



I did not address any grammatical mistakes. I was concerned with addressing the other glaring mistakes here. The subject line is probably ok. Though, admittedly, this email was in my spam box. I should have mentioned that in my response. I am sure most of their messages are going to spam boxes, so their response rate is very low or non existent.




I am not a sales expert. I am a cultural expert and business coach (see my bio and some of the over 50 companies I have worked with). I understand some of the concepts of sales, as I have to do this for my own business. But, as far as aiding teams like yours, we do pull apart messages like this to see where improvements need to be made. We also look at some cultural expectations that Americans have, so if you are marketing to US Americans, some of the terminology or approaches used can aid in improving those return rates. Recently, I have gotten some good feedback that coaching I did with a few companies has improved cold calling (Getting through the gatekeepers - before the training 1 or 2 calls passed the gatekeepers. Now, 9 or 10 calls pass through the gatekeepers.) and cold emailing (Previously 1 or 2 emails answered out of 10, now 3 or 4 emails answered out of 10.) 

If you'd like to know more about how we can help you, get in touch with us. Also, check out our E-mail and Business Writing Program.

Thank you for reading this blog.

April 11, 2019

Tips for Negotiating [Change Requests] Persuasively

When talking about negotiation on software teams, often we are referring to how to handle 'change requests.' Let's look at a few strategies you could consider using when a client is asking to add a feature to a website or an app which was not in the original project scope.

In the video below, Derek talks about these three strategies on how to approach work-related negotiations:
  • Take the perspective of the person/people you are talking to 
  • Always ask for more than you want 
  • Never take blame for the 'no' or push back 
As the strategies discussed in the video are related to generic situations anyone could face, below the video, I will share some examples of how to apply these tips specifically to discussions with clients who request changes to their deliverables. 


This video is not made by Authentic Journeys.


Tip for strategy #1: 
Take the perspective of the person/people you are talking to
Typically, there is always a reason a client is asking for something to be added or changed. Though our initial internal reaction may be to cringe and say no (it's not in the original scope!), it may be wise to take a step back and find out why the client is asking for this. Typically, clients (or anyone, for that matter) have good reasons for asking for changes. Before they spoke with you, they have gone through some kind of thought process and they are hoping for some outcome with this addition or change that possibly hasn't been considered before or discussed with you previously. Let's look at two ways you can take the perspective of the client that can build business relations while helping everyone to save face:

Understanding the Technical Know-How of the Client
When exploring their reason behind the change, keep in mind the technical expertise of the client. I have consulted with client-facing developers on software teams who have applied these techniques only to find out in the exploration conversation that the addition the client wants is actually already a feature to be added to the website, but the client did not really realize it because it was different or did not look as they have seen it on other websites, etc. Or, in other cases, they were able to talk with the client to adjust features already in the scope of the project to the enhanced requirements the client requested. In cases where the client lacks the technical expertise or doesn't know technical jargon, it's going to be critical that when describing these details to the client, that you as the developer have the verbal agility to describe technical concepts in everyday English (this is something we help you to achieve). Remember clients come to you for your technical expertise, so use your consulting skills to your advantage!

Understand the Client's Business and Outcomes
While it's critical to understand the technical aspects of any project, it's equally important to understand the client's business and related outcomes they expect from this project. What is the outcome they are looking to achieve by adding this feature? Will their customers be able to buy products on their site with more ease or security? Will their customers find what they are looking for quicker? Will the new feature reduce page loading time? Will the feature work flawlessly on various screens? If you can talk to them in their business language, the client will relate to you easier and realize you are taking the time to understand their deeper needs that extend beyond then technical solution. When you are able to do this, this may lead to more projects from the same client, secure support contracts with the same client or could bring additional business from new clients from client referrals.

Build a Personal Connection
Now that you've established your technical expertise and an understanding of the client's business domain, don't forget to get to know who your client is as a person. I also always advocate for building a 'personal relationship' outside of the business relationship through the use of small talk. Making small talk with your clients can help you to understand their mood, temperament and reactions in a way pure business talk does not. Read more about how small talk can improve client relations on global projects.


Tip for strategy #2:
Always ask for more than you want
When hearing this tip, client facing developers may think this doesn't apply to them as this seems to apply to the sales or contracting team. While it is true that this does happen during initial contract negotiations, this strategy can come in handy during projects as well when negotiating timelines, resource management, change requests and more.

In some cases, the client will ask for more than they want, need or can practically get from the scope of the project. However, when your team negotiates with them, using some of the above tips, it's always handy to keep in mind that a change request not only means a change to the output or final product, but how your team manages their time and resources. It is wise, if and when needed, to ask for time to assess how your team can apply a change request and the additional time or resources that may be needed to make it happen.

Tip for strategy #3:
Never take blame for the 'no' or push back.
In some cases, you may be able to blame your project manager or contract for the no. Depending on your team dynamics, it may be that the Project Manager has the final say for any and all changes, in addition to any formal change request forms or written requests that may be needed.

Additionally, depending on the technical scope of the project, sometimes a no can be blamed on the technical parameters of the project. In such cases, the client would be looking to your expertise and knowledge as a leverage to back up these claims. In such cases, it may be wise to not only explain the technical limitations, but suggestions for alternatives that could work in it's place, and the pros and cons of these alternatives. Again, it is advised not only to back up your claims with technical case studies, but a knowledge of how the alternatives fit into their business case or user profile.

How coaching helps:
Jennifer Kumar, author of this post is a trained business coach that provides clients with roadmaps to success when working on virtual teams with foreign clients.  Learn more about our coaching process and outcomes or contact Jennifer for more information today.

Original post: Sept. 2013, Updated: April 2019

April 9, 2019

Stop Speaking to Speak Better!

Building English Skills on Global Teams

I help tech workers like you prepare for all types of client facing conversations, meetings and interviews. When I do, I find a common thread in most of those I am coaching. Many, if not all, at some point answer a question or reply to a statement that was never said [by me]. 

When this first happened, I was confused, thinking maybe it was my accent that the coachee was not understanding. Or possibly, there was a new word or phrase that was not familiar to them [as most of the professionals I coach speak English as a Second Language]. However, when I dug deeper, my coachees revealed a few things to me that I had not considered. I want to share these findings with you, so that you do not make the same mistakes.

Common mistakes professionals make when I coached them for business interactions:
  • Not listening to the entire statement or question. Filling in the unheard words with assumed words, therefore not staying with the flow of the conversation or giving a 'wrong answer' to a question. 
  • Not focusing on what was said, but thinking about something else. 
  • Fearing to ask for clarificaiton if there was indeed a word that was lost in translation. Then, replacing the unknown word with a known word which had a very different meaning.
  • Assuming an 'order' to the questions, therefore if the questions come out of order, or the wording changes, the wrong question is answered or the wrong answer is given to the question.
  • Not waiting until the other person speaking or interviewing finishes their question or statement, and interrupting. This can be a big problem especially for client facing interviews or interviews at immigration for B1 or H1B visas, for example.
Listen your way to better responsesWhen coaching professionals, I notice immediately when the answer or response is incongruent from what was previously said or asked and call the coachee out on it. In such cases, I am often very direct and say, "That is not a correct response for this question." In some cases, I will ask them what question they answered and compare it to what I actually asked. In some cases, I need to point out the word or words the coachee confused to give an incorrect or incongruent answer.




Of course there are many other tips one can apply to listen and provide better responses. Here are a few more tips to help you listen better from US News & World Report:
  • Break any bad listening habits you have (analyze yourself to know more)
  • Face the speaker, check your body language and eye contact
  • Avoiding or not knowing how to paraphrase (summarize and ask clarifying questions)
  • Don't distract yourself (internally or externally)
  • Topping the speaker's story
  • Problem finding - creating fake problems
  • Avoid becoming defensive (using "you language")
For more details on the tips, click here.  

Anyone who has experienced being truly listened to feels cared for and appreciated. When we can listen better to our clients and colleagues, respond appropriately and hold more engaging conversations, relationships flourish and working together is much each. Listening skills not only helps in improving day to day communication, understanding conversational cues, but also in the negotiation (push back) experience. 

How to speak clearly to US clients


Jennifer Kumar, specializes in working with tech workers on global, dispersed teams to bridge the culture gap while communicating and conducting everyday business and meetings. She gives your developers and other US facing team members the confidence, skills and cultural know-how to do what needs to get done in an effective and customer service oriented way. Contact us for more information.

Photo credit: William Murphy, creative commons flickr
Original post: Sept. 2013. Updated Apr. 2019.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.