Considering all the potential problems in cross cultural negotiations particularly when you mix managers from relationship oriented cultures with those from information oriented ones, it is a wonder that any international business gets done at all. Obviously the economic imperatives of global trade make much of it happen despite the potential pitfalls. But an appreciation of cultural differences can lead to even better international commercial transactions. It is not just business deals but highly profitable business relationships that are the real goal of international business negotiations
Four steps lead to more efficient and effective international business negotiations are as follows: (1) selection of the appropriate negotiations team (2) management of preliminaries including training, preparations and manipulation of negotiations settings. (3) Management of the process of negotiations that is, what happens at the negotiations that is, what happens at the negotiation table and (4) appropriate follow up procedures and practices. Each is discussed below.
One reason for global business successes is the large numbers of skillful international negotiators. These are managers who have lived in foreign countries and speak foreign languages. In many cases they are immigrants to the United States or those who have been immersed in foreign cultures in other capabilities. More business schools are beginning to reemphasize language training and visits abroad. Indeed it is interesting to note that the original Harvard Business School catalogue of 1908 – 1909 listed German, French and Spanish correspondence within it curriculum.
The selection criteria for international marketing and sales personnel previously detailed are applicable in selecting negotiators as well. Traits such as maturity emotional stability breadth of knowledge, optimism, flexibility empathy and stamina are all important not only for marketing executives involved in international negotiations but also for the technical experts who often accompany and support them. In studies conducted a Ford Motor Company and AT&T three additional traits were found to be important predictors of negotiator success with international clients and partners, willingness to use team assistance, listening skills and influence at headquarters.
Willingness to use team assistance is particularly important for American negotiators. Because of cultural heritage of independence and individualism, Americans often make the mistake of going alone against greater numbers of foreigners. One American sitting across the negotiators table from three to four Chinese negotiators is unfortunately an all too common sight. The numbers of brains in the room does make a difference. Moreover business negotiations are social processes, and the social reality is that larger number of nodding heads can exercise greater influence than even the best arguments. It is also much easier to gather detailed information when teams are negotiating rather than individuals. For example the Japanese are quite good at bringing along junior executives for the dual purposes of careful note taking and training via observation. Compensation schemes that overly emphasize individual performance can also get in the way of team negotiating. A negotiations team requires a split commission, which many Americans naturally eschew. Finally, negotiators may have to respect the accompaniment of senior executives to better match up with client’s and partner’s negotiation teams. Particularly in relationship oriented cultures, rank speaks quite loudly in both persuasion and the demonstration of interest in the business relationship.
The single most important activity of negotiations is listening. The negotiator’s primary job is collecting information with the goal of enhancing creativity. This may mean assigning one team members the sole responsibility of taking careful notes and not worrying about speaking during the meetings. This may also mean that knowing the language of clients and partners will be crucial for the most complete understanding of their needs and preferences. The importance of listening skills in international business negotiations cannot be overstated.
Source: International marketing