Five things I learned at my first AIIC Consultant Interpreters training
A whistle-stop visit to Brussels – to catch up with consultant interpreter colleagues and to benefit from a one-day professional training session
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by Suzanne Kobine-Roy
On the last weekend in October 2018, theorganised a full day of Business Development Training for group members ahead of its internal meeting on 28 October
Brussels isn’t exactly a short hop from Bangkok but being offered a whole day of much-needed training in sales techniques convinced me to make the trip and attend my first ever committee meeting with fellow consultant interpreters. It turned out to be worth every one of the 11,000 miles I clocked up, even with the added stress of a surprise airport strike.
The Consultant Interpreters Standing Committee (CISC), formerly but no longer known as BizOrg, is self-financed from the fees consultant interpreters (CIs) pay to appear in AIIC’s CI directory. The committee was offering a whole day of free training from professional sales and marketing specialists, so I’d be getting some of those dues back in kind for training that would otherwise have cost me upwards of USD $400.
On top of that, the other trainees would not be peddling various products or services on totally different markets from mine: they’d be fellow AIIC consultants who I knew were sharing my pain on the extremely challenging market we face today.
I was all in, and here are five things I learned over a brisk, strike-afflicted weekend in Brussels:
1. The interpretation market is not unique (who knew?)
Most other sectors are facing the same challenges as us. Convincing clients to opt for quality conference interpretation and to budget accordingly can be a lonely, uphill struggle, but now I know I’m not alone.
Commoditisation is a reality facing all sectors and is used by buyers seeking to divide, conquer and level down to reduce purchasing costs. From Fintech to Uber and Amazon, new business models are shaking up traditional banks, transport providers and retailers.
In the face of multiple challenges to our market, we are stronger together. If there are two things the AIIC brand can deliver, they are collective action and value protection.
2. I need to learn a new language (what, again?)
One of the many takeaways was that I need to sit down and translate our messages into the clients’ language: business-speak.
Especially in Asia, a prospect isn’t likely to immediately sign on the dotted line purely on the basis of my AIIC Consultant Interpreter status. But if I can understand what is at stake for her and what a successful outcome looks like for her boss, then I’m on my way to making a much more compelling pitch that the client can relate to.
3. As with interpreting, in sales preparation is everything
By the time I get to a conference, I need to have the vocabulary on the tip of my tongue. If I want to land more contracts with more booth days for AIIC interpreters, then I’d better have memorised my sales arguments and value propositions before I pick up the phone or walk into that client meeting.
4. There’s no rest for the successful seller
The sales process is a cycle that constantly repeats itself. Once I’ve won the contract and my team and I are busy delivering a great service at the conference, it’s back to phase 1 of the sales cycle and time to start pitching for the client’s next event.
“Isn’t this all pretty obvious?”, I hear you ask. Mostly yes, but it can be easier said than done week after week. Hearing it all explained by an expert as part of a systematic process and being able to discuss implications and obstacles with fellow CIs proved hugely motivating.
5. Salespeople love acronyms too
The alphabet soup of sales holds no mysteries for me now. If you are an AIIC Consultant Interpreter and want to know the meaning of FUD, FAB, VITO or NPS and how to use them to boost your business, then consider attending the next CISC meeting and training event.
Spoiler alert: committee members agreed that having mastered sales, it was time to tackle marketing.
As I headed back to Bangkok with new ideas for my business and hoping all that Belgian chocolate wouldn’t melt before I got home, I wondered what difference all of this was really going to make.
Coincidence or consequence, I applied some of my new skills to the very next proposal I submitted and… it was accepted!
If you regularly organise teams of interpreters, find out how you can become an AIIC Consultant Interpreter by contacting the Standing Committee or visiting the (on the AIIC members website).
Suzanne Kobine-Roy is an AIIC interpreter and member of the Conference Interpreters Asia Pacific (CIAP) network of professional consultant interpreters.
Articles published in this section reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.