Nowadays new business and finance contacts for your international projects or in trade are established rapidly via the Internet. After initial e-mails with information and contract terms, serious business partners will soon exchange important details directly - via Skype, Zoom or on the phone.
Establishing personal contacts fast and starting right away is great, but can be at the expense of clarity. Here short e-mails at the end of your calls and personal meetings can help, if the essential 4 points are in it and the form is appropriate for both partners.
Does this sound familiar: Finally, you have found a new business partner who complements your competences in international trade well. After a long search there is also an investor; the project financing seems to be secured. Or a lucrative major customer appears who could secure orders for one year.
The excitement is huge - and the first contact is also a positive one. Brochures, offers and proposals are already in your e-mail inbox. The first phone call, Skype or Zoom call is on the way. Now it's all about details: What are the conditions? Can we be at ease with each other? When can we start?
This first direct contact often brings forth professional and personal details for the future business that have not been on the table before. In this way, goals and intentions are disclosed, conditions exchanged and ideas examined. In human contact we often tell and ask more details; technical but also very personal ones. Both are important for mutual trust and the future business relationship.
Personal conversations over the phone call, Skype or Zoom are often not documented well. This makes a follow-up difficult. Particularly with new contacts, questions can arise: Have I understood my business partner correctly? Have I expressed myself clearly enough? What really made it to the other person?
This can lead to ambiguities, confusion or even misunderstandings at a later stage. Not out of bad faith, but out of different understanding. We humans only hear what we want to hear and can hear.
In the conversation itself there is often no further questioning or clarifying, because we do not want to expose ourselves or simply do not want to appear rude or too critical. Technically, a recording of the conversation is of course also possible. However, the person you are talking to must agree to this beforehand. But often we do not dare to ask for it. Especially not at the first personal contact.
A short e-mail straight after every phone, Skype or Zoom call is the solution. This enables us to repeat briefly and concisely what we have understood and what was agreed from our point of view. It doesn't have to be a 100% conversation protocol. It is only one (important!) gesture that provides clarity for both.
These points should appear in the e-mail:
- Short thank-you for the good conversation and advance trust. That is self-evident, but we also forget about it sometimes. (Example: "Many thanks for the good conversation just recently on the phone / via Skype / Zoom. I am so glad about our first personal exchange.")
- Brief explanation why this e-mail is important. So that your future business or finance partner doesn't wonder why you're repeating the conversation you both just had. (Example: "Transparency, clarity and a common understanding are very important to me. I would therefore like to briefly confirm what I have understood and what I believe we have agreed together.")
- Summary of what you have understood. Important here: Write in the I-form. Do not simply repeat what your partner said. Both may be identical, but don't have to be - and communicating in the You-form can easily lead to misunderstandings. (Example: "I have received ...; I have understood that ...; For me it is now clear ...; From my point of view, we have agreed …")
- Invitation to your partner to add something you've missed or briefly invite him or her to confirm what has been written. (Example: "This is what I understood. Have I forgotten anything important? Is there anything you need to add?")
Why this follow-up e-mail is so important
Clarity from the beginning helps both of you to see if you really are heading in the same direction together; if you have the same map. You'll be able to quickly create common ground and understanding. A short e-mail can also prevent you from surprises or even misunderstandings at a later stage of your connection. In addition, you can always see and document exactly how the business relationship is developing further.
And if there should be a difference of opinion or a legal dispute after all, you are well prepared. In Mediation (Alternative Dispute Resolution / ADR, out-of-court dispute resolution) or before a court, your written documentation can be very helpful in determining the true will of the parties involved and in interpreting certain meanings contracts better. "He who writes remains." Lawyers learn this right from the start of their studies.
How do you document what's been said and agreed on virtually? Do you have any additions or would you like to share your experiences?