E.g., 04/05/2020
E.g., 04/05/2020

Why Doesnt the Buyer Respond to Your Email or Phone Call?

By: Daniel Carter (GALA)

28 June 2005

What is wrong when a client (translation/localization buyer) tells me that she doesnt answer her phone, respond to email, or even listen to her voicemail anymore? For a number of the clients I have spoken to recently, the reason is often similar. In many cases, it starts when a clients name is somehow publicized in some way or other.

In one specific case, a client made a presentation at a major industry conference, where her name and company were included in the conference program and promotional literature. During the time since her presentation, she has received as many as twenty calls a day from vendors and her mailbox is full of unsolicited vendor email. A few persistent salespeople call and email her almost every day, even though she has said “NO” to them numerous times. In one particularly unfortunate case, two different salespeople from the same company contacted her repeatedly without knowing that the other person was also calling her. So, she doesn’t answer her phone, she has an impenetrable SPAM filter, and she doesn’t respond to your email. Despite the annoying calls, messages and relentless salespeople, today she has a more serious, but related, problem.

So, what is wrong? She goes on to explain that she is looking for a good supplier for a new language. She asks me if I know anything about a particular localization company. Yes, I have heard of them but I don’t have any personal experience with them, so I can’t really tell her much. This is unfortunate, because despite all of the phone calls, email messages, looking at websites and conducting other research, she really doesn’t know which vendors to approach for her new project.

All the vendors talk about their quality, service, price, on-time delivery and how they can deliver the translation in any of forty languages. But after listening to sales pitches, reading emails, reviewing websites, and looking through brochures, she doesn’t know who is who anymore. All of the vendors sound the same. She really doesn’t know what, if anything, is unique about any of them. She is sophisticated and experienced enough to understand that every multi-language vendor will outsource the translation to single-language vendors or directly to freelancers. And since she has been burned in the past by vendors that sounded good but let her down, she is skeptical about their claims regarding quality, service and on-time delivery.

Shaun Daggett, CEO of ClientSide News calls this the “me, too vendor syndrome”. “There are thousands of service providers that offer the same services. Ask the first one in line what they do for clients—and every other vendor in that line will simply reply "me, too!”

After the burst of the tech bubble, vendors were doing anything they could think of to keep their sales from falling off, and most hired more salespeople. After that failed, the vendor community began development of “differentiation” products -- services or partnerships which would set them apart. The problem was that clients saw through these thinly veiled attempts and ignored most of the marketing attempts.

Now we seem to have come full circle, and we're seeing a new level of buyer confusion. The truth is that, to the average localization services buyer, all vendors look basically the same. Even the savviest buyers still can’t clearly articulate what makes Lionbridge different from Bowne.”

Having spent more time on the vendor side of our industry, I feel that I am as guilty of this as any particular vendor is. We are (generally speaking) the cause of our own pain. And as far as I can tell, we really don’t seem to be changing. Or at least not enough of us are changing fast enough. And there are so many new vendors entering the industry from Asia, specifically China, that our previous errors are being carried forward by a new generation of suppliers.

So instead of asking why she doesn’t answer her phone or respond to your email, I think we should ask, “What is wrong with us?” Why do we keep trying to sell the same thing, repeatedly, in the same way, just like hundreds or thousands of other translation or localization suppliers? And while I’m at it, why do vendors that do 95% of their work in a single language try to market themselves as multi-lingual vendors? Is it a wonder that translation and localization is often considered a commodity when the localization vendors and translation suppliers make it sound like a commodity? Wouldn’t we be more successful if created and promoted an image of our company that is unique and sets us apart from the hundreds or thousands of other translation or localization suppliers? So the next time we get a chance to talk, I hope you can tell me what you do, what problem you can help my client solve, and just what is unique about your company and the services you offer . . .


Daniel is an industry veteran with over twenty years in the industry on both the client and supplier sides. He has worked for Microsoft as the Group Localization Manager for Operating Systems and Hardware products and ran his own localization company for over a decade. He has served on the GALA Board for the past three years and is the Deputy President of TILP. Daniel is currently a consultant for both industry buyers and suppliers helping companies with their international business strategy, production process, vendor selection, marketing, and sales tactics and execution. He can be contacted at [email protected].