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When selling to Germans, how important is speaking the language?

So: you see the German market as potentially lucrative to enter, because it is. You’ve been starting to strategize and figure out the “secret sauce” to winning DACH business when a really basic question hits you, seemingly too late in the game: Do you need to speak German? Now you’re a little bit worried. But don’t be. We’re here with the answer.

The initial answer: Yes

In the early stages of a business deal in DACH, you need to speak German, or you need someone on your team that speaks German. Yes. Positively. No way around this.

A German-speaking business developer can help build rapport and pull a potential buyer out of his/her comfort zone. If the buyer speaks a little English but it’s not great and has to do the relationship-building stages in English, the comfort zone will never be expanded. It’s hard to sell or even make him/her curious enough that way.

If you have German language out of the gate in the sales process, you can reduce future issues too. If the first meeting or call is in English, it becomes easier for the prospect to see you as a burden or a hassle to overcome.

The longer answer: No

If the first meeting(s) make sense for the prospect, they will be more willing to switch over to English for later meetings, to understand what you’re doing and who works with you at a deeper level. It just can’t happen in the very initial meetings.

A very important pro tip on how to present

Don’t even try to appear as a local (German) company. You are NOT. No matter if you have a German sales guy, a GmbH (Ltd.) registered in Germany or a German website. You are NOT. You are either a local company, a global company (blue chip) or a foreign company.

DACH prospects will take this very seriously, so do not approach as a “German company.” Again: you are not.

Oh, and about the DACH market

Here’s a list of 300 top companies in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland if you want to get this process started. Ran an den Speck!

Ted Bauer
About the author

I help companies to market their content in the most effective way.