So what is your view of the the French? Is your view of this magnificent county and its people shaped by those Inspector Clouseau movies that you used to watch while you were growing up? If it was, then it’s time to get over it and move on – they negotiate much differently than you do.
As with all things in sales negotiations, there is no right or wrong as long as you are able to eventually reach a successful conclusion to your sales negotiations. The trick when dealing with the French is to realize that they approach negotiations differently than either Americans or British do.
There are two key characteristics that every sales negotiator needs to know when dealing with French negotiators. The first is HOW they approach sales negotiations, and the second is HOW they view concessions.
In all honesty, we Americans always seem to be in a rush when we enter in to a negotiation – we work from the bottom up. We pick the first point, try to hammer out an agreement, and then move on to the next point. The French have a completely different approach – if I had to use a 50 cent word I’d call it a more “holistic” approach.
The French prefer to work on a sales negotiation from the top down. They’ll try to reach agreement on the basis of some broad principles first, and spend time working out the details. While they are working out the details, they will constantly refer back to the central agreement on the broad principles. Since you start from a point of agreement, it always seems like the rest of the work is just sorting out the details and that an agreement will eventually be reached.
When it comes to concessions, the French have a very strong sense of quid-pro-quo: they always want to get something in return. Unlike Americans, the French have no problems tying strings to their concessions – you are going to have to give something up if you want to get them to give in on a point.
There you have it, it is possible to reach a successful sales negotiation deal when the other side of the table is French. You just have to remember that their approach to the negotiation and to concessions will be different than yours and you are going to have to change to make the deal work out.
Have you ever had a chance to participate in a sales negotiation when the other side of the table was French? Did they seem to be approaching the negotiation in a top-down fashion? Did you end up giving up something every time they made a concession? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.