As a North American International Sales & Marketing professional in Europe for over 20 years I have a fair bit of negotiation experience between North Americans and Europeans. As I was often the most multilingual person in the office I was often called in desperation when my colleagues thought all communications had be permanently severed with their clients.
There is one essential thing I picked up: if you are well prepared you will be able to navigate the cross-cultural negotiation challenges that inevitably pop up.
So, before any cross-cultural meeting don’t skip the essential preparation. Set aside enough time to sit down, think about the person you will be meeting and clearly identify:
· What does your client want?
· What do you want to sell him?
· What cards can you play?
· What cards he may want but you can’t play or give at any cost?
· What are you prepared to negotiate?
· What win-win outcome possibilities do you see?
After that it is all in your mindset. The right attitude will reap dividends. It is hard to describe but it is easy to recognize people who do have the international mindset. It is also blatantly obvious when someone thinks he has mastered international communications and hasn’t. This is often because he has only dealt with one foreign country or only superficially.
So here is my short definition of the intrinsic element to an international mindset:
Quiet Unassuming Confidence
The key to succeed in international negotiations is having a quiet confidence of your own capabilities. Assume your position without infringing of the boundaries of the others. But do it with quiet confidence.
Knowing you have done all of your homework will help you be confident. Doing your homework will also make it easier to immediately identify any cross-cultural communication difficulties. You will be able to ask questions to clarify the agenda and get the ball moving again in the direction you want. The smoother your communication the easier it is to appear professional.
The more professional you appear the more credibility you have.
Here are a few more tips I picked up along the way for other North American – European negotiations:
Industry operating environments can change dramatically from country to country. In one country navy suits for men will be the norm and the same industry in another country will be more tolerant. This was the case when I worked in television in London. As a woman I had it easy, but I did wear a blue suit during all out of the office negotiations when I hadn’t previously met my client.
Here in France I have gotten used to wearing more perfume than my North American counterparts. I am careful of adapting these habits when traveling to North America. I just would not be able to carry out a good negotiation if I were to wear perfume as I do in France. Smell just seems to be something people notice in others they do not know well.
Being North American I smile a lot more than most Europeans. Smiling can be taken as being threatening, or over-provocative, yes, even here in Europe, without going further east. This is something I did not change very often. I smile as I would normally do in North America. But I might change this if I were to have different responsibilities. Too many acquaintances come up to me here in France asking me not to smile, or why I’m smiling.
Smiling leads into the habit of greeting everyone with kisses on the cheeks. I would much rather shake hands or just smile rather than having to stick out my cheek for greetings to everyone I meet. There is an art to it which I will not go into here. The number of kisses depends on the region you are in, the age of the people, and other factors the locals don’t seem to agree on anyways.
But remember that it is a practice that is assimilated to simply saying hello. If you come across someone you would normally say hello to in a country where cheek kisses are the norm, it means no more than saying hello. But if you don’t give yourself in to the practice some people can be offended that you did not say “hello”.
Using Your Cultural Advantages
Being North American living in France and speaking French, I have often gotten away with addressing all of my colleagues as “tu” instead of the more formal “vous”. But I would never do this by force. And I always call people by the given name they were introduced to me with.
Americans have the habit of calling others nick names. This can work for you or against you. You will have to adapt. Personally, being a woman, I find it easier to avoid.
Adapting To Different Cultural Practices
There are two examples that immediately come to mind because they are the two things I don’t like. In France eating and drinking seem to be an obligatory part of every negotiation. Having a glass of wine at lunch when you know you have a full afternoons work to do afterwards is always challenging. There are times when it is possible to avoid drinking. However there are also times when it is well advised to have that glass of wine to fit in with the key players.
The second example is the dress code for North American women to wear stockings with skirts at all times of the year even during a heat wave. The offices are often air-conditioned so it is easy to deal with a jacket, but stockings are an oddity.
Men & Women In Negotiations
Be aware that a male/female sales team works differently in different cultures. On occasion I will hear of a well-dressed woman being invited into a cross-cultural negotiation meeting without any clear role in the negotiation process. Each time has led to the other (male) party asking for the woman to leave the room. I have never personally been in one of those meetings.
This has been a source of great fun and success for me. Multicultural sales teams who are aware of the different way they are perceived in a given culture have the opportunity of using and playing on a very wide range of natural skills. This works extremely well if you work together outside of the negotiation.
Cultural misunderstandings do happen. Sometimes more than we would like. The good news is that the more practice you have the easier it gets to develop good cross-cultural communication skills. The rewards are both personally enriching.
If you follow these tips your web site will be friendlier for all of your international visitors.
More On International Business Negotiations:
- Cross-Cultural Strategy In Sales Negotiation
- Don’t Waste Your Time Negotiating With The Wrong Person
- International Sales Negotiation Tips For American Women
- Multicultural Client Skills For Small Businesses – 8 Point Strategy For Intercultural Negotiations
- The Right Mindset For International Negotiations
More In These Get International Clients Business Guides:
- Cross-Cultural Negotiation Guide
- Run Your International Sales Strategy
- Connect With Your International Markets
Filed under: international business negotiation
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