How important are languages when hiring staff to do business within continental Europe?

How important are languages when hiring staff to do business within continental Europe?

What would you class as the most important thing – having someone with the sales skills to get you a foot in the door, or having the language skills to speak to the decision makers?

Finlay James has placed in every continent and successfully placed candidates speaking a plethora of languages including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic etc. Over the last few years we have seen that as the world becomes more mobile, the requirement from our clients for candidates with additional languages (aside from English… or the local language) has risen significantly.

The utopian answer would be to find candidates that are all multi-lingual and have the necessary skillset and the killer sales instinct to improve profits. However we are very fortunate that English is the main language spoken throughout businesses worldwide. Although Mandarin is the most popular language and Spanish is the most widespread official language, numerous Government reports show that other countries leave the UK standing in the shadows when it comes to learning another language.

Bearing this in mind, should additional languages be a favoured attribute over the quality of and proven track record of a sales person?  Or is it a stubborn and ignorant approach to underestimate the value of a language?

There are obvious roles where having a proficient or fluent language is clearly a necessity. For example, the recent placement of a Content Marketing Manager for the French market required a native French speaker/writer. However is it the same with sales?

A strong sales person will find a way to communicate with the decision makers and demonstrate value from the solutions that they are selling. A strong sales person will always have the hunger and desire to open up new doors and create long lasting relationships as they probably won’t accept that not having the language is a barrier! I’m sure that any sales person would relish the challenge of presenting to international clients.

If you are a sales professional and have covered the international market, do you feel that having additional languages gives you the edge over your peers? Or if you only speak English, has this held you back in any way?