Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sales at the French CNET Conference

pic of Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower stands tall in March sunshine

Following UKTI's embassy event on Big Data, I remained in Paris for the French association of translation companies' annual conference. CNET (Chambre Nationale des Entreprises de Traduction) held the event in a five-star hotel near the Eiffel Tower. The conference title was Vendre Plus, Vendre Mieux (Sell More, Sell Better).

CNET's President, Pierre Bastos, opened the conference. Some faces were familiar from previous ATC and EUATC conferences. Participants had travelled from as far as Israel, Greece, Estonia and Finland. Most were French, with a fair number from Lyon as well as Paris.


Pierre then handed over to Catherine Granell, CNET's General Secretary. She gave a presentation on the EUATC's forthcoming conference in Lisbon on 23-24 April. She stressed the value of networking with other European translation companies. She expressed her concern at how poorly France is represented at such international events each year. In 2014, just 4 French companies attended the EUATC conference, despite the fact that it took place in Juan-les-Pins, France. Over lunch later, a number of French participants said that they were considering attending the ELIA (European Language Association) conference from 16-18 April in Lyon.

Pic of Conference programme


There followed an excellent presentation on sales by Dominique Zouzou. Dominique is an experienced Sales and Marketing Director for major international companies. His presentation was well-supported with data and graphics. He demonstrated the change in sales approach required by today's clients. I was fascinated to hear confirmation that the marketer's task has increased, while the sales role is now confined to the very end of the cycle. 

Dominique supplied some interesting figures: 

  • Sales is a thankless task with a 99% failure rate from prospects.
  • 90% of sales prospects never reply to cold calls.
  • 93% of clients today use internet research before contacting you.
  • The sales process is 57% complete before you even know about it.
  • 65% of the top sales performers use social media.

Dominique took us through the changing demographics. He explained the changing contact preferences of the different generations - from the Baby Boomers to the future's Generation Z. The data came from the US. I wondered if social networking was advancing at the same rate in France. (Networking over lunch in France seems as important as ever).


The next presentation Selling Translation on the Internet followed on neatly. Welshman Nigel T Packer of Pelatis Online presented in English. He advised participants that their translation teams would need new e-business and transcreation skills - or, (Nigel teased) UK e-businesses might cross the Channel and "steal" their work. He spoke of a new 10-week course at Swansea University, hopes for a Masters course and his planned masterclass at April's EUATC conference.

CNET Survey

Next up was Hugues Mantoux, CNET's administrator. He presented the CNET membership survey that first began in 2002. No official survey of the French translation market exists. Concerns about the number of active participants in CNET's 2015 survey casts some doubt on the validity of the findings and figures.

The French market appeared much smaller than I would have expected. There are relatively few new entrants to the market with most companies being mature and well-established. The average French translation business was experiencing a decline in its turnover, especially in Paris. Any industry growth seemed to be outside Paris. Concerns over payment delays and pricing are shared with the rest of Europe. There was a worrying 11% drop in internships.

Hungarian Agreement

After a very enjoyable lunch, Miklós Bán presented on how Proford, the Hungarian Translation Companies' Association negotiated an agreement with its freelance translator associations. There is much food for thought here for other European associations. With 15 years' experience in the industry, Miklós shared a perception that it is not always easy to work with French freelance translators. In Hungary, two agreements (one for translation and the other for interpreting) resulted in a 16-page document that transformed the business climate.

A lack of trust and understanding existed between Hungarian translators and translation companies. There was also a generational gap between the older and younger translators. Hungarians often still look to the state to resolve professional issues and conflict. Democracy and self-regulation are newer to Hungarians than the French. (I will return to this interesting agreement in a separate blog with greater detail and my own thoughts).

Translation Buyer's Perspective

Arnaud Kauer then gave a translation buyer's perception of a multinational's translation requirements. As I gave a presentation at ELIA Budapest in 2012 from my then translation buyer's viewpoint, I was very interested to hear his views. I noted some cultural differences in his approach to the subject. I also observed how his comments were received in the room.

Social Media

Juliette Eskenazi gave the final presentation of the day on social media, thus building on its demonstrated importance to sales today. She discussed Facebook and LinkedIn primarily. Facebook is the main French social network with 28 million users. There seemed to be some reticence in the room about social media, particularly from Brittany. Our speaker and her audience demonstrated the same difference in attitude between the generations as found in other countries.

Two very full days in Paris came to an end. It was good to meet new contacts at the CNET conference and exchange contact details. I hope that some will become good future business partners and prospects. We said our farewells in the hotel's garden. We had missed the solar eclipse earlier in the day. The morning's mist had cleared. The Eiffel Tower now stood tall in a sunny, blue sky.

Karen Andrews, content writer
Karen Andrews runs
Anglicity Ltd. She is
a technical marketing
consultant. She offers
content writing,
editing and French to
English transcreation 

for further information.

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