Negotiating In France & Korea: It’s Like A Whole Different World

Negotiating In A Different Country Is Like Visiting Another Planet
Negotiating In A Different Country Is Like Visiting Another Planet

Got a great email from reader Nadir Benouali the other evening. Nadir has a fantastic set of negotiating experiences and was willing to share them. Nadir is a US citizen of Algerian origin, and speaks Arabic, Spanish, and French. He has spent the last 20 years negotiating business around the world which provided exposure to all of the differences that the world has to offer.

Negotiating In France

Nadir tells the following story about negotiating in France.

“While in Paris, France our distributor took us to a wonderful local restaurant serving “une restauration du terroir” an authentic French cuisine indeed. The next day my French distributor wanted me to ask my boss about his experience in that restaurant. To my dismay, my boss told me how it was the worst meal he ever had, and how that evening he called a cab to take him to Burger King on the Champs Elysées! I almost had a heart attack. I told my French distributor in French how my boss will never forget that experience (I never lied).”

Nadir says that the French negotiation skills are indeed different than ours for one simple and so important reason. They think and act philosophically! Americans think and act mathematically!

He goes on to explain: the French educational system is based on elaborate essays whether in science, math or otherwise. A French student must explain his reasoning. An American student answers multiple choice questions, and he is allowed one hour during his exam whereas the French student is allowed between two and four hours.

History plays a role in French everyday life. The French still feel the effects of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. Therefore when negotiating with the French an American should expect a debate rather than a yes or no process.

The French mind and psyche carries a social spirit. Not socialist, but social! They view wealth as a Marie Antoinette syndrome, and tend to favor a middle class approach to business. This view is shared among most small to medium companies whereas the elite French corporations like Loreal, Channel, Michelin etc. not only never share information about their wealth publicly, but also act as royals in private. Nadir believes that the spirit of Louis XVI is still alive.

Negotiating in Korea

Nadir went on to tell stories about negotiating in Korea. Needless to say, it was completely different from his experiences of negotiating in France. Here’s what he had to say.

“In Korea my distributor humiliated my boss by telling him how I was better than him. I knew the reason for such a comment came from the fact that I knew well the history of South Korea, its sacrifices and today’s rewards and achievements. Also that I shared my enthusiasm for his country.

Nadir said that “His key motivation for offering me this complement was that I had helped him achieve more than he had expected. He had been able to gain the respect of his largest customer because I had understood the expectation of this customer.”

Nadir had been able to offer a solution in a form of a consultative selling which had nothing to do directly with his product. Therefore, he created a need for his company’s product in the eyes of his distributor and it took only 5 minutes to turn all the negotiations on prices, products and orders into a real winning recipe for Nadir’s company.

Nadir believes that Asians, whether Koreans, Japanese or Chinese, uphold respect from their customer or boss as the pinnacle of their professional achievement. He uses this “sweet spot” to his advantage by anticipating what would the big bosses want their employee to achieve with him or what would their large customers want and expect from them.

Nadir offers the solution in front of either the big boss or their respected customer, and enjoys watching his distributor get approval. From that moment he not only get the respect he needs, but he can also impose a specific product at a specific price that he was able to explain to their largest customer, and who was enthusiastic about.

What All Of This Means For You

Nadir’s stories drive home a key point that all sales negotiators need to remember. Negotiations are different in every country. Everyone has different negotiation styles and different negotiating techniques.

Nadir’s examples pulled from experiences in France and Korea show that much more than a knowledge of what is being negotiated is needed. A knowledge of the culture and how respect is earned and shown is needed in order to be able to conduct a successful sales negotiation.

It’s stories like the ones that Nadir has shared with us that make us aware that even though the world that we live in is growing smaller, we are all still different. In order to be able to successfully reach a deal during a negotiation, we all need to be able to understand and work with a variety of other cultures.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What is the best way to learn about a culture that you will be negotiating in?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I can only speak for myself, but when I’m headed into a negotiation I like to have as much freedom to do things as possible. That’s why I tend to shudder when I discover that there are regulations or even laws that are going to impact the negotiations. However, maybe I’m not looking at the complete picture.

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