In today’s global marketplace, we will often find ourselves negotiating with people from other countries. When you are in this position, though you and the person you are negotiating with may be communicating in the same language, you should not assume that both of you conduct business the same way or have the same customs.
It is always wise to consider your target audience’s culture when communicating, so you can pick up on subtle signals and negotiate effectively.
First, you should know which communication style will be most acceptable and familiar. Does the culture value robust conversations and relish confrontation? Or is the preferred style more soft-spoken and serious? Some cultures very rarely show expression and avoid confrontation, while others consider raised voices and hand signals to be the sign of a successful negotiation. Learn the communication style that is preferred and you will be better prepared to adapt to the culture.
Some people do not mind if you put your arm around their shoulders, or if you touch their arm during conversation. However, for some cultures this is bad manners and not acceptable in a business conversation. Be aware of these considerations to determine if your usual behavior may offend one’s personal space and seem unprofessional.
Disagreements are also handled differently among cultures. For instance, Saudi Arabians are very quiet and non-confrontational during negotiations. They might consider you to be ill-mannered if you disagree with something directly in a strong tone. Whereas people from other cultures, like Germans, appreciate directness and see it as necessary to the negotiation. Some cultures see disagreement as a starting point, whereas with others it could mean the breakdown of negotiations.
Learn the culturally acceptable way to disagree for each negotiation. Then you will know if your conversation is a disaster or an invitation for further discussion.
If you are doing business with an American, for instance, they will consider the conversation successful if they have shared all of the details about their products and services and answered any questions with professionalism. To an American, what they have done is enough to have built a level of trust to establish a business relationship.
However, if you are having a conversation with a Chinese or Japanese businessperson, you not only have to build their trust on a professional basis, but on a personal level as well. They will want to know what you are like outside the workplace. Doing business with a Chinese or a Japanese means letting them get to know you and your family. Once they feel they know the ‘real’ you, they will be ready to do business.
In any negotiation with a company that has a different native language from yours, it is always wise to have someone with you that understands not only the language, but the culture. That way it is possible to avoid mistakes resulting from ignorance. The conversation and negotiations will go smoothly, since your interpreter can assist not only with the language but with the nonverbal cultural clues as well.
There are companies that deliver a contract as soon as negotiations have been completed. This is not always a good idea.
For some cultures, signing a contract merely means that they have agreed to do business, but they will continue to ask questions that need answers. Other cultures do not rely on contracts because they do not have an efficient legal system to back it up should things go wrong. For others, a handshake is their bond and a contract is seen as a lack of trust.
Therefore it is important to clearly communicate that in your culture putting things down in writing and signing a contract is a demonstration of a successful end to negotiations. This will help to avoid any ambiguity and confusion.
Doing business globally does not have to be a complex cultural dance when it comes to communicating and negotiating deals. Understanding the culture and preparing a team that addresses concerns prior to any marketing or communication will put you ahead of the game before it begins.
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