Sales Negotiators Know That Authority Looks Different Around The World

Authority To Negotiate Differs Depending On Where You Are
Authority To Negotiate Differs Depending On Where You Are

When you sit down to conduct a sales negotiation, you need to be assured that the people sitting on the other side of the table have been granted the authority by their company or organization to reach a deal with you. Under normal circumstances this can hard enough to do; however, when the other side is from another country, this gets even harder to determine.

The Difference Between The United States And Everywhere Else

Negotiating between parties that come from the United States and those who come from other parts of the globe can quickly become complicated. One of the reasons for these complications is because different cultures permit their negotiating representatives to have different amounts of negotiating authority.

An example of one style of negotiating authority comes in the form of representatives from the United States. For a wide variety of reasons based on both business structure and social norms, U.S. negotiators are often given a great deal of authority to negotiate and close deals. They don’t have to appeal to a higher authority to get approval for the deal and they are permitted to close deals by themselves.

This allows sales negotiations to move very quickly. Assuming that you can convince a U.S. negotiator to agree to a deal, you have the chance to walk away from the table with a signed deal that you can have confidence will be executed.

How It’s Done In Other Countries

When you start to invite representatives from other countries to the sales negotiating table, things can change quickly. I need to be clear here: not every negotiator from each country behaves exactly the same way. These observations are designed to paint a broad picture of what you can generally expect to encounter.

Based on where the other side of the table is from, here’s what you may encounter when you are conducting a sales negotiation with them:


  • French: when French negotiators are sitting on the other side of the table, don’t expect them to have been given a great deal of authority. Instead, they’ll have to take any deal that you reach back to a central authority for approval.



  • British: British negotiators are often given the same amount of authority as U.S. negotiators and no approval from a higher authority is required.



  • German: once again, German business is fairly well distributed and so German sales negotiators are permitted to close most deals.



  • Chinese: Chinese negotiators have very little authority. To make things worse, they will often put on an appearance of having a great deal of authority; however, in the end they will always have to go back to a higher authority in order to get approval for even the smallest of deals.



  • Japanese: once again, Japanese negotiators have very little authority. The Japanese culture is built on reaching internal agreement and so you should expect the other side to have to go back to their management in order to get internal agreement on the deal that you have reached.


What All Of This Means For You

Successful negotiators have the ability to be aware of their surroundings at all times. It turns out that this needs to include understanding where the other side of the table comes from and how their culture approaches deal making.

The U.S. style of negotiating pushes most of the authority for closing a deal down to the negotiator who is sitting at the table. The British and German cultures operate in much the same way. However, the French, Chinese, and Japanese cultures give very little authority to their negotiating representatives and require all deals to be taken to higher powers in order to get approval.

Negotiators who are aware of how much authority the other side of the table brings with them will always be better prepared. Knowing what will happen after a deal is reached makes reaching that deal that much easier to do.

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

Question For You: Do you think that it would ever be a good idea to insist that a real decision maker be a the table during an international negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the great myths of sales negotiating is that you always have to know everything about everything. It turns out that even the great negotiators can’t do this. There are a whole bunch of reasons why, but the important fact is that it’s not possible to always be on top of everything. It’s what you do when you find yourself in this situation that will distinguish you from other negotiators.