Rational negotiators have trawled through all the data during preparation and spoken to their colleagues from production, sales, procurement, quality assurance and the legal department. When they enter negotiations, they know that their demands are justified. However, that is not necessarily true – negotiations are also about haggling, trading, introducing demands, taking them away again, giving in, raising your voice, breaking off, and coming back to the table again. Negotiating is a game.
In the western culture, people often judge other cultures for their behaviours in business negotiations. There are significant cultural differences in negotiating styles, and by that we do not mean well-known clichés like Chinese protocol and American chumminess. Cultural differences are often expressed in nuances, and in the way preparations are made - excel spreadsheets are not a universally used tool. Manoeuvres and tactics are also part of the game.
A customer from the Middle East wishing to buy a white shirt is unlikely to go to a shop and examine the product he is interested in straight away. More likely, he will look at jackets and other things, and then proceed to the exit. The salesperson will probably react by offering a cup of tea in order to establish a relationship. At some point, the salesperson may get out a shirt and the customer asks if it is available in green – probably knowing that this color is not available. This puts the salesperson at a disadvantage and in order to close a deal, a price reduction for the white short might be offered - negotiations can begin.
This playful approach to negotiations can teach western negotiators a useful lesson. We recommend preparing data and facts as you would usually do, but make sure you also prepare tactically.