Business English

Business English Skills 5 minute read

How to Prepare Your First Customer Meeting

Table of Contents


A numbered text or phrase item has been provided for some students with its German or French translation to aid their learning.  

If you are new to your job and still learning the ins and outs[1], it may seem daunting [2]to meet a client who speaks a foreign language.  

What are some strategies you can take to be able to deal professionally and successfully with[3] this challenge?

Here are some steps you can take before, during and after almost any potential client [4] meeting when the specific technical terminology [5] may be new to you – whether it’s in your own language or not.

Our handy powerpoint presentation can be accessed here.

Before the appointment

Tip 1: Prepare an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list

  • Think of the likely questions [6] potential clients ask you in your mother tongue.
  • It is a good idea to write the questions and answers in your mother tongue first, if your level of English at a beginner to intermediate level.
  • Identify which words in your mother tongue you do not know in the foreign language and look them up using a dictionary or google their images. 
  • Use an online dictionary or find an image online with an English description.  This helps to verify that you translate the word correctly. 
  • Write this new word down on a “cheat sheet [7]” along with the translation that you can study from.  This can be on paper, in an Excel sheet or with an app, such as Quizlet, for study purposes [8].
  • Bookmark any online images [9]to quickly access them [10] again and use as a reference tool.[11]
  • Work through 1 or 2 different scenarios. [12] Practice by saying the new words and sentences out loud [13]that you may need.  When you can answer the clients first 5 basic questions, this will help you feel more confident [14] at the start of the meeting and help gain the trust of your client [15].Ti

Tip 2: Pictures and more pictures

If you find it difficult remembering new words, be sure to use a company catalog, magazine or online pictures you have bookmarked or stored on a device that you can access and use during your meeting. This can save time looking for words to describe exactly what you mean. [16]

Think of how hairdressers apply this tip [17] by showing clients specific hair colours and styles.

 Looking at pictures or layouts may generate a new line of questioning [22] you hadn’t considered [23].  If so, repeat Step 1 and create more FAQ’s and add to your wordlist not only for this appointment but others to come [24].

Tip 3: Ask the clients to send their questions before the meeting via e-mail to you

After taking these steps, if you still feel unsure and nervous, then you can always help yourself out by sending your client a pre-session questionnaire [25] or short e-mail.  

The more details you know in advance about what territory the meeting will cover [26], the more prepared and in control you will feel.

This gives you more time to look up words [27] and pictures you may need that answer your client’s specific questions.  Here are some examples of what you could write, 3-7 days before the meeting is to take place [28]:

“In preparation for our meeting, please fill out the attached questionnaire.  We thank you in advance for your time and look forward to our meeting.”

“To prepare myself for our upcoming meeting, could you share with me specific questions you have prepared?  This way, if research is required to answer them fully, this can be done in advance. Time can then be saved in our meeting to work out the details. I look forward to our discussion and thank you in advance for your time.” 

NOTE: This option might not be suitable for everyone [29], though [30], since this could lead to [31] potential clients expecting you to be available [32] to answer more questions than you may be able to handle [33]. So this option needs to be considered carefully [34].

During the appointment

Tip 4: Set realistic language comprehension expectations [35] with the client right away [36]

It is very important to set the clients’ expectations about your comprehension and speaking level clearly from the start.  Don’t be shy [37] to use some of the following phrases besides the common one “I speak English a little bit.”

“Before we start, I want to let you know I do speak some English but there are some technical words I may not know.  But I am sure together, with a little patience, we can manage to understand each other.[38]”

  “ I hope you don’t mind [39] that I may interrupt you sometimes in case [40] I don’t understand you.  I can speak (English) but it’s not perfect yet [41].”

  • A picture is worth a thousand words [42]

When you get stuck [43], show them.  If you are in a shop or showroom, you can easily point to what you mean.[44]  The client may then give you the word in their language.  When they do, it’s a great idea for you to repeat it.  Wait for an approving response from your client to know you’ve got it right [45].  Then for your next client, use the word you’ve learned and see if they understand you. If they do, you can be sure you’ve just learned a new word without looking it up in a dictionary!

Tip: If you are selling goods but are meeting in an office setting, be sure to bring catalogs with pictures in print or accessible online from your portable device – phone, notebook or laptop. 

  • Ask them to show or draw a picture

In your pre-meeting e-mail, you can ask them to bring any professional drawings or details with them.  However [46], there are times when [47] pictures of technical parts or processes are not available. If the client is having difficulties explaining something to you clearly, don’t be shy to ask them to draw it for you if it makes sense.

Just be sure to have pen and paper ready, just in case. 

You could say: “I think I know what you mean but to be sure, would you mind drawing (the layout) for me?”

  • Describe in simple words and wait for the “aha moment”

When your vocabulary level is good, you can also explain a word you are missing by using simpler words.  There should be a clear “aha moment” that comes over the client’s face to show you he or she understands.

Of course, the client can do the same for you.  He can explain something more simply if you don’t understand.  But be sure to let him know you need clarification without waiting too long.

To interrupt the client naturally and smoothly [48], ask for clarification by first summarizing [49] what you did understand and then ask about what was unclear.  For example, you can say something like:

 “I understand what you’re saying.  You want to ….. but I didn’t understand (your reason).  Could you please explain that to me more slowly/in a simpler way?”

  • Tell them you can clarify by e-mail

Sometimes, not everything can be explained or discussed in one meeting. If not all questions have been answered, be sure to summarize what points learned and what open questions remain. 

Then confirm that you can answer remaining questions via e-mail. So, instead of spending too much time confused about [50] how to answer a question, you can stay professional and respond to them via e-mail.For example, you could say:

“Thank you for your patience with my English. I am not sure I understand what you mean.  Could you please write your question here and I can look into it when I get back to my office.  I promise I will provide an answer to you (by Friday).”

“It’s a pity we’ve run out of time. Could I ask you to send me an e-mail with any unanswered questions you may have? I will be sure to respond to you tomorrow.”

After the appointment

Tip 5: Follow-up

Call or send a follow-up e-mail within the agreed time set with the client during the meeting. It is very important to fulfil any promises you have communicated with your client and helps to gain your client’s trust.

If during the meeting you aren’t sure how long it is going to take you to respond, do not promise the client you will answer them “right away” or “as soon as possible”.  Instead, set a realistic date and allow some buffer time, in case you need to rely on others to answer the question fully.

50 key words/phrases included in this post are listed with their German and French translations below. 

A print friendly version of this article and word list is also available for your convenience.  

How to Prepare for your First Client Visit

Terms used in this post in English, German and French


[1] ins and outs 

[2] seem daunting 

[3] deal…with

[4] potential client 

[5] technical terminology 

[6] likely questions  

[7] cheat sheet 

[8] for study purposes 

[9] bookmark any online images          .  

 [10] to quickly access them 

[11] use as a reference tool              

[12] work through 

[13] out loud 

[14] feel more confident

[15] gain the trust of

[16] Describe exactly what 

[17] how (to) apply this tip                    .  

[18] home remodelling business          .    

 [19] This can come in handy              

[20] particularly when 

[21] may not be familiar with            

[22] generate a new line of questioning 

[23] you hadn’t considered  

[24] not only …but also…

[25] pre-session questionnaire 

[26] about what territory the meeting will cover 

[27] look up words  

[28] take place 

[29] This option might not be suitable for everyone 

[30] Though 

[31] This could lead to 

[32] expecting you to be available 

[33]You may be able to handle            .          

[34]This option needs to be                  .              

[35] Set realistic language expectations 

[36] right away 

[37] Don’t be shy

[38] We can manage to understand each other 

[39] I hope you don’t mind                    .           

[40] I may interrupt you sometimes in case         

[41] I can speak English but it’s not perfect yet.         

[42] A picture is worth a thousand words 

[43] When you get stuck 

[44] Point to what you mean 

[45] Wait for an approving response from your client to know you’ve got it right. 

[46] However 

[47] There are times when 

[48] To interrupt the client naturally and smoothly 

[49] Ask for clarification by first summarizing 

[50] Instead of spending too much time confused about 


Einblicke und Ausblicke 

scheinen entmutigend zu sein


potenzieller Kunde 


Wahrscheinliche Fragen


für Studienzwecke

setzen Sie ein Lesezeichen für alle Online-Bilder

um schnell auf sie zuzugreifen

Verwendung als Referenzwerkzeug



sich sicherer fühlen

das Vertrauen …zu gewinnen

beschreiben Sie genau, was 

wie Sie diesen Tipp anwenden (können)

Geschäft für Hausumbau                      .              

 Dies kann sich als nützlich erweisen.

insbesondere wenn

Sie sind vielleicht nicht vertraut mit

eine neue Befragungszeile generieren 

Sie hatten nicht bedacht 

nicht nur— sondern auch 

Fragebogen vor der Sitzung

darüber, welches Gebiet das Treffen abdecken wird

Wörter nachschlagen 

findet statt

Diese Option ist möglicherweise nicht für jeden geeignet.


Dies könnte dazu führen, dass 

erwartet, dass Sie verfügbar sind 

vielleicht können Sie mit                      .                      

Diese Option muss sorgfältig geprüft werden.

realistische Erwartungen an die Sprache setzen


Seien Sie nicht schüchtern 

Wir können es schaffen,  uns gegenseitig zu verstehen

Ich hoffe, Sie haben nichts dagegen    . 

Ich kann Sie manchmal unterbrechen, falls 

Ich kann Englisch sprechen, aber es ist noch nicht perfekt.

Ein Bild sagt mehr als tausend Worte  . 

Wenn Sie feststecken 

Zeigen Sie, was Sie meinen 

Warten Sie auf eine genehmigende Antwort Ihres Kunden, um zu wissen, dass Sie richtig liegen. 


Es gibt Zeiten, in denen 

Den Kunden natürlich und reibungslos zu unterbrechen 

Bitten Sie um Klärung, indem Sie zunächst zusammenfassen

Anstatt zu viel Zeit mit der Verwirrung über


les tenants et les aboutissants

semblent décourageantes

traiter …avec

client potential

terminologie technique

questions probables

fiche de fraude (F)

a des fins d’étude

ajoutez les images en ligne à vos favoris

pour y accéder rapidement

utiliser comme outil de référence    

travaillez sur 

à haute voix 

se sentir plus confidant

gagner la confiance de 

décrivez exactement ce que

comment (appliquer) ce conseil            .       

entreprise d’aménagement de l’habitat 

 Cela peut s’avérer utile                      

en particulier lorsque

peut ne pas être familier avec          

générer une nouvelle ligne de questionnement 

vous n’aviez pas envisage 

non seulement …mais aussi 

Questionnaire de pré-session 

sur le territoire qui sera couvert par la réunion

chercher des mots 

à avoir lieu

Cette option peut ne pas convenir à tout le monde. 

bien que

Cela pourrait conduire à  

l’attente de votre disponibilité 

Vous pourriez être en mesure de gérer

Cette option doit être examinée avec soin. 

fixer des attentes réalistes en matière de langues 

tout de suite

ne soyez pas timide

Nous pouvons parvenir à nous comprendre 

J’espère que cela ne vous dérange pas

Je peux parfois vous interrompre au cas où 

Je peux parler anglais mais ce n’est pas parfait

Une image vaut mille mots.                  .                

Quand vous êtes bloqué 

Pointez ce que vous voulez dire

Attendez une réponse positive de votre client pour savoir que vous avez raison. 


Il y a des moments où  

Interrompre le client naturellement et sans heurts

Demandez des éclaircissements en résumant d’abord

Au lieu de passer trop de temps confus sur 

Follow us and keep it for yourself




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Sample Cover Letter: Supply Chain Manager

Have you seen our writing tips and sample cover letter for an Account Executive?  Here comes one for a Supply Chain Manager.  We used the same cover letter template for the Account Executive and Supply Chain Manager cover letter.

Maybe you’d like to give the template a try yourself?

Or if you prefer a more personalized service, we offer cover letter support starting at Euros 20.00.  Just get in touch with us on via e-mail :  A short phone call can also be arranged via Skype.

Sample Supply Chain Manager Cover Letter

Note: the list of 22 prompts used for the text in bold can be found on page 2 of the document.  All you need to do to find the prompts is to place your mouse at the bottom of the document and the page numbers will appear to click on.

Sample Cover Letter: Supply Chain Manager Read More »

kostenloses Business Englisch

7 Top Tips – Send good English e-mails at work

Today, it is so important to be able to send good English e-mails which have been written with some thought when you are at work.

Why? When using your phone to access your e-mail, you might find yourself caught up in a moment at work. You are in a meeting or at lunch and without thinking you click “reply,” type up a quick response and send.

Then all sorts of things happen and you end up in a chain of 5 people on cc and wondering what is happening! This is why we offer these 10 tips to help you send good English e-mails at work.

1. Should it be handled in-person

As you move up from being a Team Leader to Manager or working with budgets, there are always stories in a company which are shared by the Nespresso coffee machine about “did you hear about?” 

These topics sometimes stray into the “for your information” or f.y.i. space of e-mail. Ask yourself is the e-mail a public one to be shared, or stored and addressed at a review or private conversation moment with the person who is the subject or sender.

The topic being discussed is something you’d write on company letterhead or post on a bulletin board for all to see before clicking “send.” –Judith Kallos,
author of “E-Mail Etiquette Made Easy”, “E-Mail: The Manual”, and “E-Mail: A Write It Well Guide”.

2. Don’t have red mist or get “e-mail angry” with anyone

Let us ignore the current Twitter star of rants, e-mailing with bad news, making a decision to cut a supplier, to stop working for an employer despite the fact you will be paid your notice period and more may seem a good idea at the time. 

E-mail is dangerous because one moment the exchange is informal. Next, it is used as evidence to resolve conflict or to impact a project resource budget request. 

A small side comment has caught many a person because you must remember that e-mail correspondence lasts for a long time. 

Legally, companies are required to retain information in some circumstances for 7 to 10 years!

3. E-mails are not messaging

Companies are using more and more messaging platforms, this short answer or SMS style is now applied by many to e-mail. 

The problem, a 1 or 6-word response may not actually advance the conversation or requested decision very far. In informational situations, add “Information only” or “No Reply Necessary” at the top of the e-mail or in the subject line, if low priority or if you do not want a response. 

When you send a short e-mail in English with “thanks” or “will do” as a message, when there may be more than one person involved who may not be as proficient as you in your use of English, confusion can arise.

4. Always include a signature if it is important

The topic is urgent, the email has “sent by Samsung” or similar on it and there is no contact information. 

Why should someone have to look up how to get in touch with you? Have you not been frustrated as the receiver of an e-mail who had to check through past e-mails to find a contact number? 

This is why on important e-mails adding the best contact number to get you and a note of your time-zone if travelling will speed up the process.

5. Call or warn in advance when you need to send large attachments

There are other ways to send large volumes of data, not by e-mail. Many company e-mail inboxes have a capacity limit. 

It could be as low as 100Mb and if the person owning it keeps everything, your 10Mb report and graphic file, badly formatted CV or similar could bounce or simply not arrive for a long time. 

That is because a low priority has been set internally for large file management on the company e-mail servers. Tools for sending large files include Dropbox, filemail and others.

6. Manage those attachments

“I did not get the information” because the recipient did not see the extra documents which were hidden in the scroll down area if you are using Outlook. 

If you are sending attachments please try to give them a document or file name which is logical. When you send more than 3 files, state in the first line, “please find attached the xxx files / documents relating to .” 

This means that in the future, if you or they need to find the e-mail, it can be found with a simple sent/inbox general search of subject and content. This is especially important for HR or Finance where in the case of HR the resume, interview notes, references and other information may be shared.

7. Your e-mail is about you and people who receive them do judge, so consider using the phone instead

Every e-mail you send is looked at by others, a manager may think “oh dear” their English is getting worse, or we have a training need because it is not on topic, contains mistakes or a mix of German or French and English words. 

This is not your fault or the fault of a colleague, it is simply reflects the need of a skills or use of English language course. That is why we say sometimes instead of e-mailing someone, pick up the phone instead. 

There have been many students who have spoken with good use of English and clarity of thought on important topics who would not have been able to do the same in an e-mail.

We do have more e-mail tips to share on e-mails and other business English topics. If you are interested, please sign up for our newsletter or contact us for an e-mail writing and use of English in-company course.

Do you want to learn English?

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Sales out of office email holiday message in English

It is important that Sales and others in customer facing roles consider their use of an out of office reply as a sales or communication tool.

We covered in another post the common mistakes and how to avoid them by writing a good out of office email reply (originally written in 2008 and updated in 2017).

In case you do not want to read the post, they include:

  • Date Confusion – I will be out of the office starting 09/08/2017 and will not return until 23/08/2017 – ask yourself about the date and are you an American or not?
  • Mixing Language – Thank you for your message. Sorry I’m not in the Office until 20th of Mai and I have no access to my Emails.

Usually we suggest a simple and correct form:

Acceptable out of office email example

Thank you for your e-mail.

I am out of the office till Thursday, 27th of April 2017 and your email will not be forwarded.

Should the matter be important, please contact XXXX XXX ( email address) in my absence.

Best regards

Your Name

So how can sales use this simple email reply to their best advantage?

In another example we could use the following:

Dear Mail Sender,

Thank you for your mail. I will be out of office from today and will be back on Thursday, May 27th. I will have limited access to my e-mail during this period.

In my absence, please feel free to contact XX XX on +41 44 319 3338 or e-mail

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Your Name

PS In my absence I thought you may be interested in learning about our new product x / company video on xxx . I would be keen to know your thoughts after I get back

Signature block with links to Linkedin or Xing Company Page, other Social media

Do you see what you have just done? 

As an English School not all our learning is from books and for someone in sales, the door is now open to speak to someone specifically about a product or service.

All whilst they were on holiday

For more insight and clever use of English, please do not hesitate to follow The Boston School on Facebook or Linkedin or contact us to discuss your training needs in English.

English delivered to your inbox leaving you to enjoy your holiday!

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