7 Point Checklist – Fruitful Phone Conversations with African Partners

Teen girls with mobile phones

You already know how to take care of business on the phone.  I just want to bring to your attention a few culturally appropriate pointers to enhance your conversations when you are speaking with that African partner or prospective client.

 

Green-Check-MarkGreet them with formal, honorific prefixes such as Mister, Misses, Doctor (for M.D. and Ph.d), your honor or the actual office for public officials.

Respect is very important in most African cultures. It is better to error on the side of over honoring than inadvertently demeaning them because you did not use the term they are accustomed to hearing before their name.  “How are you doing, man!”  “What’s up, bro!”  may be a appropriate and a laid back way of being cool when greeting in the USA or Europe, but it is out-of-place with Africans.

Green-Check-MarkAsk about their day.  Show a genuine interest in their life, not just their potential to do business you.  How are you today?”  “How is your day going?”  “How are things in …(their city/country)?”

Sure they most likely will give you a short, standard answer like “fine”, “good”, or “it is raining.”  Your question has shown that you know to jump right into business not only seems abrupt but it is often interpreted as rude in many African cultures.

Green-Check-MarkCommunicate that you know something laudable about them.  “I see that you own (or work for) …….”  “So, you are a graduate of ……”

Show them that you know they are well-connected or have had some accomplishments in their life.  This demonstrates that you understand that someone else values them, and you do too.   Relationships, weather business or community oriented, are very important to Africans.  Part of their self-worth related to how they fit into communities.  Identifying those connections validates them.

Green-Check-MarkSlow down, take your time.  You will get to the point of the call, but no need to jump right to it.

“Time is valuable,” has a different meaning in much of Africa.  We in the West want to complete business tasks and conversations in the least amount of time possible.  In many African settings, the more time you spend with someone, the more you value them.

Green-Check-MarkGive them something of value, with no strings attached.  Share a link to an article that will help them with a particular problem or give them contact information to a lead.

Make sure that what you are offering is something that answers a problem or contributes to a situation you learned about them during the conversation.  This will show that you are listening well and that you are wanting to help them.  You are on their side.  This is somewhat equal to the African custom of taking a gift when you go to visit someone.

Green-Check-MarkEnd the conversation with something other than business.  Pay attention to the time of day.  “Have nice evening with your family.”  “Enjoy your meal.”

You are establishing a relationship.  One of the worst mistakes you can make is to end a conversation on a sour note. Always end with something upbeat or encouraging.

Green-Check-MarkRemember to keep your promise.  If you promised to get back to them tomorrow, do it.  If there is information that you said you would give them.  Make sure and send in promptly.

Trust is built by this follow through.  So, make sure to promise only what you can deliver.

None of the items on this checklist are overly profound, but we all need reminders once in a while.  I wish you profitable and relationship building conversations today.  And, by the way, have fun with your family this evening.

 

 

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