Do you have an international sales negotiation coming up? Are you nervous about how it will go?
Most people don’t give much thought to the actual cross cultural communication process prior to their first real cross cultural negotiation. They get obsessed with secondary details.
Cross Cultural Negotiation Skills
Imagine you are in a long line of people waiting for a taxi at the busy Paris airport. With people swarming everywhere. The noise of the street traffic competing with the noise from the airplanes in the background.
And then you hear such a large commotion, right up at the front of your taxi line. You think it is yet another bomb scare and crane your neck to get a closer look with your bags in your hands ready to move. But out of the confusion you hear laughter.
It was only someone who began to try bargaining the price of his ride before he got inside the taxi…with a Parisian taxi driver. The tension breaks as a ripple of laughter mixed with annoyance runs down the taxi line.
It is an old story. But it does highlight cultural differences in negotiation very well.
Different Cultures Have Different Negotiation Practices
Negotiation practices differ from country to country. Some cultures expect clients to negotiate over things that would be totally unacceptable in other countries. Some cultures get upset or angry by things that are totally acceptable in other cultures.
Different cultures simply have different approaches when it comes to negotiation.
This can be intimidating when you travel to a new country to negotiate for business.
And even more so if it is your first time.
It is important to know what is culturally expected of you when it comes to negotiation.
If you are just starting out in developing your international markets, it is wise to do some homework and identify the standard expected negotiating habits in the country you are travelling to.
No matter how much research you do prior to your first cross cultural negotiation communication road blocks can easily come up. This is even more likely if your negotiation is taking place in a foreign environment to what you are used to.
So it is even more important to develop skills to ride through communication hurdles.
A Beginners Guideline
Prior to your first cross cultural negotiation give some thought on how you will keep on track.
Here is a guideline to help beginners.
If you find yourself on your own in a country where negotiation practices are different to your own, there is a strategy to follow.
Prior To Your Negotiations
Do your research on what will be expected of you. Define your schedule, and what you are expected to wear and bring. If you are a woman, be sure to verify standard practices beforehand.
Are there any standard culturally specific negotiating practices? Remember to ask for advice prior to cross-cultural negotiations.
If you feel you will be in a different environment than you are used to you have two options to consider:
Hire local representation. Some large multi-national companies hire local company representatives to facilitate all business procedures in certain countries in the Middle East and the Far East.
Arrange for a local third party to accompany you. Look for someone who can tell you if you are making any cultural blunders. This will give you a certain peace of mind.
Prior research helps, but even so, it is not always easy. You will also need to keep your own behavior and attitudes turned towards your negotiation.
This is where the following 8 points are important.
Best Practices During Your First Cross Cultural Negotiation
Ask and find out what is expected of you.
Explain that you are looking forward to the business opportunities open to both of you.
Explain that this is your first trip and you have not done business in their country before.
State your good will and that you do not mean to do anything awkward.
Ask to be told or shown what to do.
Apologize if you do or say something that seems to be out of place.
Continue to show your desire to proceed in the negotiations.
Continue to say that your look forward to doing business with them and learning more about their culture.
Keep this guideline in mind during your negotiations.
Remain constantly aware of your environment so you can implement any of these points if needed.
Use each point appropriately when needed.
Do not go overboard. Overly stating your enthusiasm or apologizing incessantly can be destructive to your negotiations in some cultures.
Use this guideline as a gentle reminder to stay tuned to where the other party is at. If you feel in any way that you need to refer to one of the points above, do so, and continue your negotiation.
Cross cultural communication is a process where you adjust your communication a little and learn to meet another culture in the area where you both feel comfortable. It is about knowing when to ask discretely for feedback to make sure you are all on the same path. (Read the Whole Story)
Very best wishes for the New Year 2011, and beyond
Amadou M. Sall
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