Recently, my friend Arlene Marom from Tel Aviv, Israel asked about what kinds of negotiating techniques to expect in non-American markets. Negotiating can vary greatly from person to person and culture to culture. Generally, there are several categories of negotiating techniques: Pressure, Emotional, Defensive, Aggressive/Adversarial, and Deceptive. My favorite class in MBA school was International Business Negotiations and the best book I know of on this subject is Negotiating International Business by Lothar Katz. I need to credit both of these sources for much of what I know. Since school, I’m amazed at how often I see some of these techniques being used. But regardless of the technique, the motivation is to get the most value out of the negotiation, even if it is only for your side of the deal. Here is a sampling:
Opening with Best Offer
This may not even seem like a negotiating technique since the presenter of the best offer may be trying to bypass negotiations altogether. Some cultures such as Germans, Swiss and Scandinavians might not like the bargaining process and so this is their way of not negotiating. But it does not build relationship that serves as the foundation to most business partnerships and sales around the world. It also requires that you are in a position of power where “take it or leave it” is an option. Normally it leaves value for both sides off the table, which is bad. Some cultures such as Russians and Ukrainians may use this technique as an opener and a bluff.
Appeals to Personal Relationship
It doesn’t take long in international markets to run into this technique. It is very common in the Middle East and Central Europe. You might hear “If you value our relationship, you’ll give me xxxx”. It puts the other side at a disadvantage because it equates rejecting the request rejection with rejecting the entire relationship. Interestingly, it is more common in situations where relationships are not well developed and by people who do not necessarily value the relationship. You’ll rarely find it used in China, Malaysia, or Indonesia.
Changing the Subject
This can be an effect negotiating technique in order to take the other side off a systemic strategy with a set agenda. It is a way to avoid giving away something you are not comfortable giving. It is face saving when negotiations are tense and going in the wrong direction. In polychronic cultures (where time is not taken chronologically), frequent subject changes are normal and expected. This includes the Middle East, France and most of Latin America. But don’t use this in monochromic cultures such as the United States, Canada, Scandinavia or the Germanic countries.
Anyone who has ever spent time in a Mexican market knows the power of walking out. The price on whatever you were last examining drops dramatically. Walking out can be physically walking out of the room, but it can also be an emotional walk out with anger, shouts and gestures. It is normally preceded by threats of walking out. If you are ever going to try this, you have to be willing to walk away from negotiations altogether. It is normally last resort. Sometimes just one member of the negotiating team will walk out at a critical time. This tactic is used more frequently by Czechs, Dutch, Germans and Israelis. But if you use it on North Americans or Western Europeans, your negotiations are probably over.
This one is my favorite because it is most often used against my fellow Americans. Prolonged silence (up to 3 minutes) can make North Americans, South Americans and any other communication-intense cultures very uncomfortable. Especially East Asians know this. What normally happens is that the silence is broken by the communication-intense side. They start blabbering and giving away concessions or other information they shouldn’t. The trick is to sit quietly with no facial expression until the other side breaks the silence. If you ask a question and receive no response in 3 minutes, head for the door. If they are serious about the negotiation, the other side will stop you from leaving.
I hope these negotiation technique descriptions are helpful!