Cross Cultural Negotiation - Building the Best Team, 4 Essentials February 18 2015, 1 Comment

by Erich Toll

Sign up now for our exclusive newsletter. Get monthly intercultural tips, tools and insights

To be successful in cross-cultural negotiation, you need to put together the right team.

First your crew should be comprised of people who are skilled in cultural competence. You’ll need people who are calm and patient when unexpected obstacles arise. When possible, pick team members who have experience dealing with a particular culture or speak the local language.

1. Local Help- It’s vital to have someone from the local culture on your team. Local associates can help with negotiating across cultures, including providing introductions, translating, understanding culture, and getting permits and navigating bureaucracy.

If you’re unable to find someone within your company, get a recommendation from a local lawyer, accountant, bank or trade organization. In any event, select someone who commands respect in the local culture.

You might also need to hire a translator, who can also communicate across cultures and interpret what's really being said. Avoid working with interpreters suggested by the other side. Words can be manipulated to strategic advantage, so hire your own independent associate.

2. Leadership Matters - Hierarchy is another important consideration in cross cultural negotiation. In cultures such as Asia and the Middle East, seniority commands more respect than in the West. In these places, decisions are usually made at the top, and executives expect to meet with their peers.

Thus it’s important to match their level and – per the Asian saying – “match eagles with eagles”. Also ensure that your business cards should have the most impressive title possible.

3. Team Continuity - If your objective is a long-term operation, your team should include those who will run the day-to-day business. This will allow them to better understand the culture and build important relationships. Changing players after a deal is struck can damage or even undo an agreement.

When negotiating across cultures, make sure you have one team from start to finish. Personal relationships are vital in many cultures, and bringing in new faces could start the game all over again.

4. Right-Size Team - Finally, your team needs to be the right size. Different cultures view teams differently. In collective cultures, people prefer to work in groups. In Asia you might find the other team fills the room and you might be expected to do the same. In cultures like Japan, sending a small team can be offensive and indicate lack of commitment.

A smaller group is more cost effective and reduces the chance of infighting. But a larger team can command respect and provide strength in numbers. Extra personnel can also make up for those who might be affected by jet lag or illness. It’s best to balance the size of the two teams. And remember the number of people on each side can be negotiated.

Conclusion - It’s important to put together the right team. Here’s how:
• Pick people who are culturally adaptable, as well as local associates from the culture;
• Your team should include senior executives and personnel who’ll run the operation;
• Use one team from start to finish to foster relationship building;
• And finally, be prepared for large groups and seek a balance in the size of the two teams.

For more information, enjoy the video International Negotiation

What did I miss? Please leave your comments or additional tips below.