Building your business with cross-culture business training. Over 3,500 professionals from India and the U.S. have worked with us since 2011.

November 21, 2018

3 Ways to Get to Know Your U.S. Client Before You Talk For the First Time

Many working on global software teams or those who provide IT consulting or app building services to U.S. clients may start their engagement with limited knowledge about their client outside the technical scope and requirements of the project. 

If this is you, let's see how you can get to know some simple things about your U.S. client before you even start the first call that will help you build context and relationship before you say HELLO. 

Build the Relationship before the first call

Look up the Client's Business Website, LinkedIn or Online Presence 
Get some basic idea of what the client's business actually is. What is the business' personality? What is their language? I do not mean "English." Of course, if the client is in the United States there is a good chance their website or online materials are in English- but what is the language of their business? For example, how do they refer to their customers? Do they call their customers patients, clients, customers, guests, or by another name? Pick up little tidbits about their language and business. This will help you go to the next level of customer service

Note Down Their Address and Contact Information
I have worked with many developers who answer, "I don't know" when asked, "Where is your client located in the United States?" In many cases these developers are not new to the project, but have been working with the client for months, and in rare cases, years. Knowing even small tidbits like this can not only build business integrity, but can build personal connections with your clients with ease and can help long term in other conversations outside of small talk (such as in negotiations).

Of course you may connect on Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or another online platform that doesn't require you to know their phone numbers or physical address, but knowing it can provide a lot of context to your client and their environment. For instance, you will get to know:
  • What city and state they are located in
  • What time zone in the US they are located in (there are four time zones in the continental U.S.) 
  • Maybe you can locate their office on Google Maps and see their office building 
In reading US style addresses, you may come across some abbreviations you are not familiar with. A few of the short forms with their expansions are below:
  • APT: Apartment (this would be rare for a business address unless the person has a home based business)
  • AVE: Avenue 
  • BLVD: Boulevard (a wide, tree lined road, mostly in bigger towns)
  • HWY: Highway 
  • P.O. Box: Post Office Box (an address that sends mail to a post office, not a physical office building)
  • PKWY: Parkway (a road typically reserved only for cars and small vehicles) 
  • STE: Suite (an office area inside a bigger building, learn more here)
  • X: Extension for a phone number (For example, look at this phone number (555)555-5555 X777, the extension is 777. To reach this person, dial the international code for the US, then then digits, wait for an operator or a prompt to request the extension number 777 which connects you to the person's desk.) 

To look up other street and building abbreviations used in the U.S., refer to the United States Postal Service Street Suffix Abbreviations list or the USPS Street and Secondary Units Abbreviations Job Aid listing.

The format of most US business addresses is something like this (keep in mind that commas and spaces are important): 
Name of Business
Street number Street Name Street Abbreviation, (Suite/Apartment number) 
City, State Zip Code

Example (address created only for example purposes, any relation to a real address is purely coincidental):
Good Home Furnishings 
111 Main Street, STE 300
Anytown, NE 33300-4444

State names tend to be abbreviated into two letters, which are both capitalized. They can be listed without dots or with dots (N.E. or NE). In this case, NE stands for Nebraska, which is happens to have two time zones, Mountain Time Zone and Central Time Zone. To pinpoint a time zone, and check the time difference between India and your client's office, plug in the US town name and your Indian city into Timebie.

The nine digit number after the state is a zip code. They used to only be 5 digits, but many are now listed as 9 digits with a dash between the fifth and sixth digit. 

Try to Understand Their Business to Guess How Your Solution Helps Their Business
Your client is working with your company, your team and YOU to build their business. While you are providing a technical solution, this solution is helping with their company in some way. By knowing a little about their company, can you make any guesses how your solution will build their business? How will it help their business in a way other older or low tech solutions have not? 

Trying to understand and apply some of these elements to your client conversations will not only build relationships but build your business acumen. You will get to know your own work from a different perspective and at the same time help increase your own job security! The more your clients like you and your company the more they would want to continue working with your teams (for support, upgrades, other software and apps) and even refer you and your company to other clients to build your company's portfolio. 

Feel free to share other small ways you have built the relationship with your international client to make the working relationship more interesting or easy? 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, Managing Director of Authentic Journeys provides business consulting and targeted coaching to global, virtual teams helping them to build relationships across oceans while mitigating cultural difference to aid in flourishing business relations. Contact us to learn how we can help your business.


Related Posts: 
Common Short Form Abbreviations in the U.S. 
Avoiding Mistakes in Offshoring and Outsourcing 
10 Tips to Work Effectively with Americans 

No comments:

Post a Comment

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 (Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.