Review by Tyler Langendorfer
Last month at the ATA’s 58th Annual Conference in DC, John Di Rico presented the session “Selling Your Translation and Interpreting Services,” a talk focused on the techniques required to successfully acquire and retain direct clients. Di Rico, a French-to-English translator as well as Sales and Marketing Manager for WordFast, advocated a “customer-centric” approach that encouraged sellers to rethink their own views on the buyer-seller relationship.
Di Rico began his talk with a sample email from a prospective buyer and asked audience members to form groups in order to discuss how they might respond. After each group shared their ideas, Di Rico would outline his recommendations, then ask the groups to again brainstorm solutions to another series of questions. During the initial rounds of discussion, Di Rico drew attention to the most important details a seller ought to obtain initially: the name, title and company of the prospective client; how they found out about the seller; the buyer’s present goal; and the challenges they have with their current process. Once these have been identified, the seller can move on to the next step and compose a champion letter for the potential client.
A champion letter is perhaps the most important communication effort in the buyer-seller relationship, as it underscores why the buyer should choose the seller’s services. It also demonstrates a strong degree of professionalism and courtesy. According to Di Rico, it has five parts: a statement of goals (or shared goals), a summary of the current situation and the capabilities required to address it, at least one potential benefit from the seller’s services, and the next steps should the buyer maintain their interest.
Other advice of note included Di Rico’s statement that sales is a conversation, one that requires patience and a strong willingness to find solutions for the buyer. Also, to build a strong, personable relationship with a buyer early on, Di Rico advised that the seller try to schedule a phone call in their first email response. Lastly, the seller should not invest too much time in obtaining a client that is uncooperative in providing the info needed to conduct their business.
For this writer, Di Rico’s approach seemed reasonable and well worth considering. Although not all his recommendations may have been new to session attendees, it was beneficial to closely examine the techniques sellers utilize when they interact with prospective buyers. Perhaps the most salient takeaway was Di Rico’s emphasis on making sure that the seller understands the buyer’s needs and that they work with them to reach a solution. Even with the focus on direct clients, translators and interpreters can nonetheless incorporate Di Rico’s recommendations into their relationship with agencies, as they could also benefit from a heightened sensitivity to a project manager’s needs. Furthermore, customer-centric selling enables the seller to rethink the value of their services and may provide for a renewed sense of purpose in their professional goals. In other words, what does it mean to translate or interpret, for the sellers themselves, the buyers, and perhaps also the greater social good.
Tyler Langendorfer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a translator of German and Spanish specializing in marketing, social sciences, and humanities translation. He is a participant in the ATA Mentoring Program and has been studying Russian independently since 2014.