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Interculturality: an obstacle in international business

Negotiation, often perceived as a tug-of-war between two parties, is the basis of a commercial relationship. In the case of international negotiation, there are often more interests at play and the difficulties are usually greater. On one hand, this is because of the high degree of anticipation and preparation required by international negotiation. On the other hand, it is due to the fact that cultural differences and linguistic understanding play a decisive role in the development of a positive encounter. 

Cultural differences and linguistic understanding play a decisive role in the development of a positive encounter.

1. Negotiation goes hand in hand with preparation and planning

Negotiation goes hand in hand with preparation and planning

As for all negotiations, it is vital to be fully prepared for the meeting with the customer or potential partner. First and foremost, it is necessary to gather up all of the company’s direct marketing sales aids: the business card, the company brochure and/or catalogue, data sheets (if the negotiation includes a product) and samples and goodies. 

All good negotiators should be armed with the sales pitch and counter arguments. It is necessary to present the specific characteristics and benefits of the company, along with being able to respond to the objections put forward by the other party with regards to the company, the product (or service) and the whole business aspect connected to the product or service. 

Finally, it is fundamental to put together information regarding the other party and his/her activity (customers, suppliers, past business relationships...) in order to clearly understand his/her needs and to successfully conduct the meeting. 

2. Building a relationship of trust

Building a relationship of trust

We tend to believe that if we give accurate information and specific details about our project and our intentions we could be putting our “opponent” at an advantage. However, a good negotiation entails clarifying objectives in order to reach the best possible agreement for both parties, in other words, a win/win situation. Showing the other party that we are open to their requests and to aligning our interests to theirs, wherever possible, will be a guarantee of reliability and professionalism.  

In the case of disagreement, quickly and effectively finding alternatives is also part of the process for building a relationship of trust. Prepare the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) before the meeting, finding prior solutions for the commercial disagreements that could come up during negotiations. 

3. Interculturality: a pillar of international business

Interculturality: a pillar of international business

Being aware of the specific characteristics of the country and of the other party is fundamental when negotiating abroad. A custom in your country may be offensive in another. So be sure to do your homework before the meeting!

Punctuality is the example that is often used. In this respect, I would also like to talk about business cards. In Western countries, business cards are usually given with a single hand, as is also customary in India. By contrast, in Asian countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, and also in Israel, business cards should be given with both hands, as a sign of respect. 

4. Beyond the language barrier: translation and interpreting

Beyond the language barrier: translation and interpreting

When a company works internationally, communication is usually carried out in English. However, in some countries such as China, we may find that our business colleagues have a low level of English and the translation of documents or direct interpreting may often be necessary. Selecting a qualified and competent interpreter will be a key part of the negotiation. A good translation of the negotiation terms by the interpreter will be fundamental in order to successfully conclude a commercial agreement.

In some circumstances, selecting a qualified and competent interpreter will be a key part of the negotiation.

The same goes for small and medium companies that want to embark on an international venture, the language barrier is a real problem that hampers negotiation and exchange with foreign companies. Translation agencies can help you to overcome linguistic difficulties by managing projects from beginning to end. 

Manon Maletras's picture
Manon Maletras
Marketing and Sales Assistant as intern in AbroadLink. Bachelor of Applied Languages to Business and International Trade. Currently in her final year in the master of International Trade at Lyon 3 University, focusing on International Negotiation and Finances.