- Learn Business English – Don’t spar your prospect!
Don’t understand your English enquirer’s needs?
Then don’t get into a fight with your prospective client!
Nowadays, there is no excuse for poor communication. You can learn Business English online, face-to-face or from free online resources.
In ‘Business English is not just about learning English’ we highlighted the role of metaphoric English in learning Business English and for you to recognize and respond relevantly.
But, the best lessons learned are too late, usually with costly consequences.
Not convinced? Read on – we assure you learn Business English students, this is no cock and bull story . . .
An overseas speaking businessman of a small successful London removals company advertised:
‘We can carefully pack and transport anything to a delicate work of art’.
One day he received an email enquiry from a prospective country client for the transportation and delivery of, in the client’s eyes, a ‘work of art’ by nature – a Chillingham bull. Now, learn English students, let’s test your analytical ability – why did the deal die?
The dialogue continued for two days and went as follows (we have edited the text to protect the innocent, but we may not be quite so lenient next time around!):
Prospect: I have a 6ft high valuable Chillingham, a work of art and priceless, requiring expert handling and transportation from Dorset to London. Are you able to provide a quotation and accommodate my urgent requirement?
Businessman: I can accomplish your requirement for £350 with a van and driver service. Please advise if the work of art is packed or requires packing.
Prospect: A generous price for expert handling. The Chillingham will require sturdy tying and solid crating. Although white may not require covering. I believe two men would be required. Would a van guarantee adequate safety and security?
Businessman: We ought to get a wooden crate done – it will incur cost. If it can be wrapped with blankets and packing materials it can be transported safely. If you could advise me of the nature of the work of art: What material and its weight. Our vehicle is equipped with excellent quality straps for safety. I recommend two men to handle it for 100% safety.
Prospect: I am guided by your expertise. Prudent prevails for the additional requirement of quality straw for cushioning within the crating area. The Chillingham is a rare piece weighing approximately 200kg and with a sound thick coating. A fresh quotation is in order.
(Now, the dialogue gets interesting . . .)
Businessman: I can’t visualize how the Chillingham looks in my mind. If it is 200kg it will require more than two manpower and perhaps mechanical assistance. Is there any way that I can have a picture of the Chillingham and may I ask what it is made of?
Prospect: How many men will be required? No mechanical assistance is necessary if adequate manpower is available. For safety reasons, will your men be wearing the standard blue uniform with heavy blue coats as advertised on your website as red is not advisable? You may visit us to assess what is required for the handling and safe transportation of the Chillingham, which is better than providing a photograph.
Businessman: To my experience four men will be required. If the item is on the ground floor most probably we will place it on a wooden pallet (bulls on pallets?) secured with straps then take it to the vehicle by tail lift (not advisable to lift a bull by its tail) - it will be strapped in the vehicle. Our crew is uniformed as seen on our website and all my staff is courteous. I would like to see the item but we are based in London. May I ask where the item is going in terms of floors?
Prospect: There is some urgency because of weather conditions in the countryside. The Chillingham is at ground level and there are no inclines, but it will be possible for it to handle small inclines if required. Owing to its nature, placing the Chillingham on a wooden pallet may present a problem – strapping would assist. Once delivered, the Chillingham will be housed in an outside stable at ground level before its return in spring. The need for your services may be required once again for its safe return as you will have acquired experience of its handling (don’t look a gifted horse in the mouth– there’s more money to be made Businessman!). Do you have a fresh quotation based on the new requirements?
Businessman: Thank you for describing the Chillingham. We still need four men to handle it. I presume its base is flat therefore it can be placed on a dolly which can take over 200kg supported by four men (Flat bottomed-bulls on dollies?). Once in the van it will be secured for transport. Please advise if our current amount of insurance is adequate. The quote for this particular transport will be £1,100 (a devastating departure from £350!).
Prospect: Four men it will be (He’s still there – don’t screw-up Businessman, so far so good!). As you may appreciate, the Chillingham is a work of art – a rare specie of animal (How can you miss this, Businessman?) and of fine distinction. I believe an increase in insurance should the Chillingham suffer a mishap.
[It this point the Businessman speaks to us about his understanding of the ‘work of art’ and Chillingham – And was he surprised about the use of metaphoric English and that he would have a white feral bull breathing down his neck for 100 miles (keeps one warm in winter, we guess!). We did gain the impression he wasn’t quite convinced by what we said – let’s read on, shall we?]
Businessman: I ought to ask you what it is made of please? (Bye-bye big bucks!).
Prospect: I am somewhat confused by your reference as to what makes a Chillingham. You are aware that the Chillingham is a rare breed of bull, white in colour with a thick shaggy coating of fur and muscular shoulders for fighting, a work of art and valuable – a bovine of fine distinction.
Businessman: I think I totally misunderstood when you said a piece of art. I never thought that would be a live animal. I am very sorry but I think the Chillingham will be safer with a live animal transport company as we only transport solid items (a bull seems substantially solid to us).
[And the response? Well, a red rag to a bull!]
So, where did it go wrong? Yes – lack of understanding in metaphorical English and lack of understanding of the prospect’s needs.
And the moral of the story?
“Learn Business English well!”