Negotiation skills training across cultures is important in building meaningful business connections today.
In an increasingly globalized business world, many companies have realized the importance of hiring employees who can work successfully in the international arena. Since companies are increasingly called to do business in an interconnected, multicultural context, businesses need employees who thrive in cross-cultural interactions in order to stay competitive.
In order to grow your professional success in this globalized context, you will need to learn how to create and maintain relationships with your counterparts in foreign companies, navigating different cultural norms.
You may also need to be able to broker deals with foreign businesses, as well as bring in new clients, suppliers and partners wherever they are in the world. You will have to show customers worldwide the value and applicability of your company’s product or service in their respective countries.
To make it in today’s globalized business world, it is key that we learn how to take culture into account in our business deals and interactions.
The Value of Negotiation Skills Training
Because negotiation training teaches you to be flexible in thinking about how you make deals, you have the opportunity to simultaneously offer services tailored to client needs, while charging a competitive market price. Negotiation skills help equip you to make better deals and improve your company’s bottom line.
While your negotiation courses may help you feel well-versed in creating relationships and making win-win deals in your own country, you could face new and unexpected challenges when called on to negotiate across cultures. Differences can arise in everything from greetings to hand gestures to communication styles to interactions with authority figures.
A failure to understand these differences and take them into account can cause offence and misunderstanding, harming business relationships. To effectively build connections and negotiate winning deals, it is important to take cultural differences into account.
How can I improve my negotiation skills across cultures?
Below are simple tips that teach you how to succeed in building connections and negotiating deals across cultures.
1. Build on What You Already Know
With a strong grounding in negotiation skills, built up through negotiation training, you already have many tools that can serve during cross-cultural interactions.
One foundational concept in win-win negotiation is: that there is no one right answer. Rather than staking out a position that is “right” or “good,” your negotiation courses will have taught you to creatively seek solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
Around the world, people are socialized into living their life a certain way, in keeping with the customs of their culture. Everything from how they eat, how they joke, and how they do business is shaped by that culture. Some of these customs, which defy your own socialization about how to do things, could seem strange or questionable to you. You may even be tempted to make assumptions or judgments about these practices.
However, because your negotiation training has helped you cultivate the ability to be flexible in meeting people’s needs and finding mutually beneficial agreements, without getting caught up in judgments about the right way to get there, you will be well-equipped to take other cultural practices into account without judgment.
Approaching cross-cultural business interactions with the level of openness and flexibility, as you have learned in negotiation courses, will allow you to better build the connection with your foreign counterparts and ultimately, make better deals.
2. Do Your Research
Any high-level negotiation course will teach you that you need to arrive at the negotiating table having done research about your client or counterpart beforehand. You should know what goals the other party is seeking to achieve through negotiation, what their company has to offer, what business climate they are working in, and what strengths and liabilities they have.
This holds true in cross-cultural contexts, as well. Before going into a negotiation in a different country, you must research business customs in that country. Knowing about negotiation styles favoured in a particular country will help you prepare to meet the other negotiator where they are at. You will be better able to avoid cultural misunderstandings on both sides.
For instance, in some cultures, people may negotiate very aggressively. If you knew nothing about the business practices in that environment, you might be caught off guard and could even feel offended. However, if you understand the cultural norms of businesses in that country, you will be prepared to meet their negotiation style in kind or redirect it in a manner that better suits you.
If you understand where your foreign counterpart is coming from, you can more readily adapt and move forward toward a successful deal.
3. Analyze the Values that Drive Cultural Practices
As you study business cultures in new, foreign environments, it is important to consider what values and needs drive certain cultural practices.
For instance, some customs might betray the importance of respect for authority in a certain culture. Other practices might demonstrate that there is greater interest in maintaining a long-held relationship than in extracting maximum value from a particular contract.
If you can analyze what values lie behind certain practices, you can better understand what the other negotiator’s needs are. Having taken negotiation seminars, you will remember that deals are more sustainable when all parties’ needs have been met. Your analysis of cultural practices will help you identify those needs, which will help you think of clever ways to meet your needs and theirs in any contract you sign.
4. Avoid Stereotyping
While it is important to research cultural practices and foreign negotiation styles, remember that neither cultures nor people are unidimensional.
Each of us is shaped by the society we were raised in — and yet, we also each have individual tastes, values, and beliefs that make us unique. Therefore, while you should try to understand your counterpart’s culture and customs, it is also important to avoid falling into stereotypes, which can hamper your true understanding of the other party.
Work to get to know your counterpart as an individual. This knowledge will help you build a relationship with that person, which can help pave the way to a better-negotiated deal.
5. Taking Culture into Account Supports Negotiation Success
Negotiation skills training offers us many useful and widely adaptable tools for seeking mutually-beneficial agreements. In addition, in a globalized business environment, you have the opportunity to take the skills you’ve acquired through negotiation courses to the next level when you take culture into account.
By keeping an open mind about how you meet all parties’ needs, learning as much as possible about foreign cultural practices, analyzing customs to understand the cultural value systems behind them, and truly getting to know your counterpart as an individual, without stereotyping, you will be well-prepared to bring your negotiation skills to boardrooms around the world.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.