Americans have been active in international business since before the United States was founded. As a people, there are several of our business cultural characteristics that we can leverage for better outcomes in international negotiations. Here are some traits to use to your advantage:
Friendly and Open
Most Americans doing business internationally use friendliness as a tool to start new business relationships. Overall, Americans tend to see everyone as equal. Meeting people of varying social status and backgrounds comes easier for Americans than for many other cultures. And even though this characteristic can clash with other cultures, it is often overlooked because it is seen as almost naïve and endearing. This friendliness serves the useful business purpose of starting business relationships more quickly, which is normally an American business objective. Knowing that this is a strong American characteristic, it is best not to judge other cultures when they appear less openly friendly. When trust is built over time, it is much stronger than any initial enthusiasm.
Americans tend to be more open than many other cultures when negotiating. That is not to say that American won’t sometimes omit mentioning details which are not in their favor. But generally, Americans don’t hide much information. This again makes it easier to build trust when negotiating with a new international client, partner or supplier. Australians and New Zealanders typically prize openness and honesty above all other cultural traits, making Americans natural business allies with both Aussies and Kiwis. While it is easier for Americans to negotiate with similarly open business cultures, openness can build in many places over time and cumulative business dealings.
Confidence and Initiative
When Americans show confidence in their own abilities, it helps to strengthen their negotiating position in most international transactions. In win-lose business negotiation cultures (ex. Russia, Arab cultures, Israel) should confidence falter the other side will seek deep and unfair concessions. Building on American self-confidence is our ability to take initiative and steps forward in the negotiations. Americans are likely to follow up on outstanding issues in the talks as well as confront any issues that will likely derail the negotiations early on. Americans like to summarize negotiations progress in written form to ensure that both sides understand points that have been agreed upon. All of this serves American interests of a faster negotiation saving money and time spent to close the deal.
Americans generally prefer a fair business arrangement. Few want to risk a negative business reputation since this could deter future business from the same market. Americans like to approach business negotiations as a joint problem-solving exercise, including negotiations for sales to clients. Since win-win outcomes are more likely to lead to client referrals, repeat business and client testimonials, this trait can definitely pay off in international markets. For business cultures who also seek out win-win long-term business relationships (ex. most of Asia, Europe and Latin America), this makes for smoother negotiations. Even for those cultures who prefer to win while the other side loses, structuring a deal for a win-win still yields healthier long-term business dealings.
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