Pity the poor American salesperson who goes out into the world of business and tries to negotiate. Sure, he/she is probably well equipped to negotiate with his / her American born-and-breed peers. I mean, after all, we share the same vocabulary, culture, and were brought up pretty much the same way. However, what happens when we encounter someone from a different (dare I say foreign?) culture? Like say, China…?
The world is constantly becoming a smaller and smaller place. Current economic conditions not withstanding, this is only going to speed up over time. That means that somehow we need to find a way to quickly come up to speed on how to deal with sales negotiators who come from different cultures. They think and act completely differently than we do and we are the ones who need to learn to adjust in order to make our sales negotiations successful.
Dr. Charles Karrass has spent a lot of time studying not only negotiations but also how cross-cultural negations do or don’t work. When it comes to dealing with folks from China, he’s got some suggestions for us:
- Get Some Quanxi: Quanxi is the Chinese term for the construction of close family relations, or a joined network of relationships with the emphasis on the individual and informal groups rather than formal organizations. Building guanxi means building relationships. In sales negotiations, this means that by entering into a negotiated relationship, you are actually taking on a lot of responsibility. If things change during the contract, the other side can ask for changes and you are expected to be accommodating.
- Watch Those Words: In negotiations with Chinese, what a word means is critically important. All too often, what a word means to you may not be what it means to the other side. Both before and during a negotiation, it would be worth your while to take the time to carefully define key words and make sure that both of you are using it the same way.
- Persistence Pays: All too often in Western culture, we take a “no” as really meaning “no”. To a Chinese negotiator, your “no” just means “no for now” and they will feel free to revisit it over and over again to see if you’ve changed your mind. Many western negotiators have commented on this by saying that Chinese negotiators appear to grind away until they end up getting most of what they want. Chinese negotiators have both consistency and persistence – be prepared!
Yes, a sales negotiator can successfully conduct business with Chinese negotiators. However, you need to be aware that they view the world differently than you do and YOU are the one that is going to have to adjust in order to have these negotiations turn out successfully.
Have you ever had an opportunity to negotiate a business deal with a Chinese negotiator? Did they keep coming back over and over again to issues that you thought were already closed? Were there any misunderstandings over vocabulary words? Did you end up building a quanxi relationship? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.