Monday, July 30, 2007

Making Sales

The last post looked at marketing. On the same day I attended Keith MacGregor’s workshop, I also attended one by Helen Jones on how to sell our products/services to customers.

Ms. Jones started her workshop by saying that many people have negative perceptions of selling. They imagine that it means persuading people to buy things they don’t need or want. On the contrary, she said, selling is not coercion. It is communicating, explaining to people who you are and what you can offer them.

She described Cialdini’s six principles of influence, which relate to the process of selling products/services. The six principles are: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Yes, some of these techniques might sound a little sneaky, but I am just passing on what I learned, not necessarily recommending everything described here.

Reciprocation means that if someone does something for you, you then owe them a favor. For sales, there are two major techniques: give something to your potential client first, or else create rejection first (by beginning to say something, for example, then cutting yourself off, and saying “No, never mind. You probably won’t be interested.”). In either case, the client might then feel duty-bound to listen to your sales pitch.

Having commitment and consistency means that you follow through on what you say and also that you have a consistent (typically professional, reliable, and trustworthy) image. This relates to liking, since the image you portray and your personality help clients like you.

Social proof refers to other people recommending you and believing in you and your products. There is a difference between when a salesperson describes a product and when a friend does so; you are more likely to believe your friend, colleague, or relative, who presumably has nothing to gain by making a recommendation, than you are to believe a salesperson, who clearly has to push a certain product in order to make a living. This is why some brochures or websites list quotes from satisfied customers.

Showing your authority is a beneficial way of getting customers to realize that you have the experience and knowledge necessary. Therefore, do not be shy about mentioning your degrees, what training you have, your memberships, and so on. All this is proof of your qualification to do the job well.

The last principle, scarcity, doesn’t relate to our field so much, but it means that if people believe a product is scarce, rare, or in a limited edition, they tend to be more willing to buy it quickly and to pay higher prices.

Ms. Jones then discussed the six steps to a sale: preparation and planning, identifying potential customers, deciding on the marketing strategy, selling the product/service and closing the sale, delivering the product/service, and collecting payment.

The first three steps are related to what was described in the mentioned in the previous post. You need to know what it is you are selling and why it is different from that offered by your competitors, then you need to find your customers, and offer them this information. Here, you can use the specific features of your product/service that you came up with for your marketing plan, but Ms. Jones said that it isn’t enough to just name the features; rather, you need to also say what the benefit is to the customers. For example, if you have lived in five countries and can speak seven languages, that means you have more cross-cultural knowledge and can therefore help your clients create documents that truly work in the target culture.

After you have marketed your product/service, you need to sell it. Whether you are out on a sales call or having discussions with a client in your office/over the phone/by e-mail, the steps are the same. You need to be prepared to introduce yourself and your product/service in detail and you should find out what the client’s exact needs are. Explain how you can fill that need and describe your features and benefits.

Your client may have objections; Ms. Jones felt that price is often mentioned, but it is usually a red herring. If a client says the price is too high, you can ask, “If I give you a 5% discount, would you then be happy to buy?” However, she warned that you shouldn’t be too quick to give discounts, or if you do, you should make it clear that the customer will lose something by taking the discount, such as “I can give you a 10% discount, but then there will be no free delivery and you will not get access to the helpline.”, and/or you can say that the discount is only a first-time offer. Ms. Jones said that if you are willing to quickly discount, clients will get suspicious and think that your prices must be quite inflated. She also said that asking questions about the objections is useful. For example, if you have said “If I give you a 5% discount, would you then be happy to buy?” and the client then admits that she or he thinks the quality might not be high enough, you can say, “What concerns you about the quality?” Then you can give explanations, such as about the materials you use or the warranties you include.

After you have dealt with any objections or concerns the client may have had, it is time to close the sale. Confirm all the terms – what you will deliver and when, how much it will cost, when the client will pay – so that you both know what is being agreed upon, and also to remind yourself, so you don’t later have to call up the client and ask embarrassing questions, the answers to which you should have known. Next, thank the client and leave and/or end the meeting. Ms. Jones said many people, especially new businesspeople, get scared at this point and they keep talking, giving the client a chance to back out of the deal or to get buyer’s remorse. So she recommended that as soon you have completed the agreement, politely finish the discussion.

But you aren’t finished yet. Now you have to deliver the product/service. If you are unable to fulfill the contract for any reason, do not wait until the last minute to tell the client. Tell him or her as soon as you know that your supplier has not come through or that you have a problem with your computer, and offer to find someone else or to help in some other way. If you handle this professionally, the customer may return to you another time; if not, she or he might even discuss you negatively with colleagues, making you lose even more potential future business.

Finally, you need to collect the payment. As Ms. Jones said, “A sale is not complete until you collect payment. Not when they say ‘yes.’” You are not, as she put it, “a glorified charity” and “if they haven’t paid, your business is going nowhere.” So make sure you have agreed on the payment terms in advance and that you invoice the client immediately. If they try to take advantage – they have, after all, presumably already received the work from you, so they may try to force you into agreeing to a discount or to re-negotiate in some other way – be firm. This won’t work for most translation jobs, but Ms. Jones mentioned times when a client tried to nastily re-negotiate with her and she actually destroyed the work rather than be “pushed over a barrel.” An important note is that you should not keep delivering work or agreeing to work with this client if you do not get payment in a timely fashion. But, as Ms. Jones said, “It is easier to safeguard yourself than to mop up afterwards,” so try to make sure you know that you are working with someone you keeps his or her end of bargains and/or try to get at least part of the payment up-front.

Hopefully, this advice on marketing and selling will help your translation business!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Marketing Your Business

In June, I attended a workshop on marketing run by Keith MacGregor. Mr. MacGregor, who has a public relations firm in Cardiff, Wales, said that finance and marketing are the two most important aspects of a business, but they are also the two that people avoid or don’t really understand.

Marketing is communication. You want to communicate to potential customers what is different and valuable about your company/services; the goal of marketing is to get known and to get sales. This is a continuous process, one that you will work on as long as you offer services/products, and not something you do just once, as in a series of advertisements.

There are many different ways of marketing, though most people assume that the only way to market is buy ads in newspapers, trade publications, yellow pages, and so on. Mr. MacGregor mentioned the following kinds of marketing: advertising, public relations, direct mail, direct e-mail, having a website, leaflets/brochures, leaflet drops, launches, open days, other events, networking, radio, television, telesales, and newsletters. For translators, I’d also add that membership in associations is also a form of marketing.

With all these choices, though, how do you how best to market your own services/products? Before you get to the point of choosing how to market, Mr. MacGregor suggested that you first make a list of the six specific things that make your business different from that of your competitors. Maybe you’re cheaper, or you offer better service since you work longer hours and can answer e-mails even late in the evening, or you have lived in five countries and can speak seven languages and therefore have more knowledge and experience, etc. These reasons will form part of your message. After you have carefully thought about this, figure out who your customers are and how you can find them. The next step is to review the options for marketing and then consider what the best way/s to reach your customers would be and what you can afford.

Then you can create a detailed marketing plan. Decide what marketing activities you will do and how much they will cost, what your objectives are with this marketing (for example, to find five more customers, or to let people know about a new service you are now offering), identify your target markets, and begin the marketing, which should have consistent messages and consistent designs. Mr. MacGregor warned that that is not the end of the procedure, however. You must regularly review how the marketing is working, so you can adjust your marketing plan if necessary, and you should also follow up with potential new customers. If you sent out letters by direct mail, for example, call the people you wrote, remind them of who you are, and try to interest them in your business. You might also want to ask new customers how they heard of you, so you can track which strategies are working best for your business.

As Mr. MacGregor said, “It is one thing to have a good business. It’s another thing to convey it in a marketable way.” As translators, it’s easy to just assume that people know they need us and know how to find us. Actually, though, we need to think about why customers should choose us over other translators and how we can reach those customers.

The next post will be about the step after marketing – sales.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Birds of a Feather Translate Together

The categorization of translators in an essay entitled “Peacock, Parakeet, Partridge, “Pidgin”: An Orinthology of Translators” in Eugene Chen Euyang’s collection Borrowed Plumage is interesting. He chose different birds as ways of describing different translators and he created a “descriptive taxonomy, using popular images of birds to characterize certain practitioners of the art of translation.…it would not be difficult, if a little malicious, to find translators who might be revealingly identified with buzzards, cormorants, or dodoes.” (151)

For example, Dr. Euyang wrote, “Where the peacock preens proudly in its own glory, the parakeet borrows someone else’s glory. By mimicking the sounds precisely, it makes us almost believe that a bird is saying something human. This uncanny effect is found in a genre of translation that might be characterized as “translatophony,” i.e. rendering the phonetics of an original in one language with approximations in another language. The result is “phony,” of course, in another sense, since the semantics of the words used in the second language do not correspond to the semantics in the original, yet they constitute – by several stretches of the imagination – their own somewhat coherent meaning.” (153)

Meanwhile, the partridge (or grouse) is one who has “the tendency to complain and to grumble.” (156) Examples he offers of these kinds of translators are Edward Fitzgerald (peacock), Luis d’Antin Van Rooten (parakeet), and Vladimir Nabokov (partridge).

Finally, there’s the pidgin, which is a corrupted version of a language.

“Tellingly, each of the four avian counterparts emphasises a different sense; the peacock is clearly visual, and graphic; the parakeet is definitely aural, and phonetic; the grouse is, by instinct, olfactory: he knows when something smells; the “pidgin” is a groper and has only a clumsy tactile sense of words as objects, not as abstractions.” (158)

He closes by saying which bird he’d want to be, and says none: “I try to emulate the chameleon.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Job for “Professioanls” Who Don’t Mind “Loosing”

I’m on a lot of translation lists, and advertisements of translation jobs are a frequent feature of several of them. Not long ago, I saw one job that was so ridiculous that I had to mention it here.

The would-be employer was looking urgently for a highly qualified translator with at least 25 years of experience, who was a member of “professioanl associations”, and willing to translate one million words of a legal text from Arabic to English at, of course, competitive rates. The employer could not afford to pay “unrealistic American and European sky-high rates”, but noted that “whatever you might loose financially on this very BIG job, and others to come in future, you will “definetely” gain in-kind out of this mine of unprecedent legal terminology.”

Hmm, let’s see – does anyone know a single “professioanl” translator with 25 years of experience who would seriously consider a job in which they would “loose financially”, especially knowing that this job would likely lead to more work in which they would “definetely” “loose” more?

Job offers like this, which unfortunately aren’t as uncommon as you’d think, add to my feeling that we translators have to
educate our customers.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Dolphins and Wales

Since moving to Wales last September, I have learned a lot about differences between varieties of English, and I have received lots of questions about my accent. Many people have trouble placing me in part because my English has been influenced by my years in Scandinavia. So when asked (and the people here usually ask by saying “Where’s that accent from, love?”), I often reply, “Chicago by way of Sweden.”

Not too long ago, on the train from Cardiff to Swansea, I noticed a blurb (
speaking of wordplay, it had the amusing heading “Dolphins sound more like Wales”) in the newspaper saying that dolphins who live off the coast of Wales have been found to have distinct accents. Cows, birds, and other animals have recently been discovered to have dialects as well. Whales, incidentally, have songs, but I haven’t heard whether dialect influences those songs.

A week after I read that, I was signing in at the reception desk in a building in Swansea while chatting with the receptionist. He asked me, “Where’re you from, love? Canada?” “No,” I replied, “I’m from Chicago, in the U.S.” He looked disappointed but then said, “Oh, that’s all right, love. We like you anyway!”

I immediately thought of the dolphins and I imagined them migrating to other areas and being asked “Where’s that accent from, love?” by dolphins speaking another dialect.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bilingual Wordplay

In the last post, I wrote about my research into the translation of wordplay. There was one form of wordplay that I didn’t discuss and that is bilingual wordplay. First of all, what is bilingual wordplay? Well, simply put, it is when an author creates jokes through the intersection of two or more languages. There might a sentence that is partly in one language and partly in another, or there might be a phrase that can be read in two or more ways, depending on which language/s the reader believes is/are being used, or the wordplay can be bilingual in some other way.

In the collection of essays Wordplay & Translation, edited by Dirk Delabastita, there is an article by Tace Hedrick called “Spik in Glyph? Translation, Wordplay and Resistance in Chicano Poetry”. Dr. Hedrick says that bilingual puns serve “as a bridge between two separate and seemingly autonomous language systems” and such wordplay “points at the ways in which the borders of languages can become fluid when they come in contact with each other” (146).

How, then, can a translator translate bilingual wordplay? Should it be translated monolingually? If so, surely some of the flavor and feeling of the source text will disappear. So should it only be translated bilingually? If so, which language/s should be used and why?

As with other aspects of translation, the translator’s decisions when it comes to bilingual wordplay depend to some extent on the audience. Will the source audience recognize all the bilingual wordplay? Why or why not? What does the author expect or want the source audience to understand? And who will be reading the target text? What language/s would they likely be familiar with and what feelings or stereotypes are connected to those languages?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Translating Wordplay

This week, I was at the British Comparative Literature Association’s conference in London, where I presented on the translation of wordplay, using Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and two of its translations to Swedish as an example.

As with other aspects of humor, wordplay is culturally dependent; where wordplay adds an extra challenge is that it is also linguistically dependent. Wordplay is usually based on the polysemic nature of language, which means that it works at both the word level and above.

In my research, I have found a variety different methods for translating wordplay. These are:

• Deleting the wordplay (and possibly other text as well, depending on the context and the usage of the wordplay).
• Translating the wordplay on one level only, which usually means the humor disappears.
• Translating the wordplay directly, which is generally only possible if the languages/cultures are related, or if a certain bit of wordplay just happens to work in more than one language.
• Adding an explanation to the text or adding extratextual material (footnotes, introduction).
• Replacing the wordplay with another pun or another kind of humor or rhetorical device.
• Adding in new wordplay or even completely new text, in order to show readers the tone of the source text and that wordplay is used in it.

I can’t say that one solution is always the best one to choose or that another should always be avoided, or make any other broad statements. However, my general feeling was that deletion was not such a good idea since it ignores authorial intentions and the tone of the text, and I also thought that adding an explanation usually ruined the humor (if you need a joke explained to you, doesn’t that detract from the point of the joke?). In my analysis of Alice in Wonderland and those two Swedish translations, I found that a strategy that was frequently successful was creating new wordplay in place of wordplay that, for linguistic, cultural, or contextual reasons, wouldn’t work in Swedish.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Taking a Break

I’ll be taking a break from work for part of the summer (well, something of a break, anyway, since I will be attending conferences and will also still be doing editing and translation), and therefore I’ll also be taking something of a break from posting, too, though I will still post, so do check back. In the meantime, it is now easier to find past posts, since I’ve added labels throughout the blog. I’ve also added e-mail capability, which means you can get new posts automatically e-mailed to you (see the left-hand column, under Brave New Words Feeds).

Have a great summer!