You are set to enter the Chinese market, are done with your market research and now is the time to meet your potential Chinese business partners. However, before meeting them, you should familiarize yourself with some negotiation tactics and knowledge to secure yourself a higher chance of success.
If you do not understand Mandarin, engage a good interpreter to ensure your message is conveyed accurately and you do not misinterpret any of their messages. You should expect your interpreter to be familiar with your industry work and to be familiar with both your native language and the Chinese language industry jargons. Remember to provide your interpreter the relevant information that is required for him to effectively execute his task. If possible, before each meeting, spend some time to discuss with your interpreter what you want to achieve out of the negotiations.
As a foreign business entering the Chinese market, it will be advantageous for you to make things as convenient as possible for the local partners. For instance, if you have any information which you might want your potential partners to understand, remember to translate it into Chinese for their convenience and that also includes your name cards.
For a start, you may consider recording the meeting conversations either openly or secretly. Though it might be an ethical taboo in your culture, it does have the advantages of helping you or the interpreter to recall any information that was missed out in the meetings.
Leverage on your interpreter to pick up simple Chinese to be used in meetings. It can be a good ice breaker or a good closing. Words like “Thank you”, “How are you?”, “Welcome”, “Please to meet you” or even some candid phases like “You are handsome or pretty!” can be used to create a good impression.
Since this is the first meeting in person, some of the discussions may be held over lunch or even a tea drinking session. Therefore, using the chopsticks effectively or some simple tea knowledge can help to improve their impressions on you.
Sometimes you may find your potential partners reacting negatively during the meetings. Do not be alarmed - it may be that some Chinese, depending on their provincial lingo, may converse much louder along with hand movements. Do clarify with your interpreter.
Depending on the level of communication before the first meeting, you may find yourself not moving forward much in terms of business discussions. Do not feel discouraged as Chinese believes in consensual decision making and may need to report to their superiors on the findings before any decisions can be made. Furthermore, to do business with the Chinese, “Guan Xi” or relationship is also important. Thus this relationship needs to be built over time and cannot possibly be of immediate effect after the first meeting.
Thus, you must be prepared to make subsequent return visits to finalize the details and to build up the “Guan Xi”. Do not hasten to send emails after the meeting to finalize the details, as it may be misrepresented as the potential partners having the bargaining power. It is alright to return to your home country and then decide how you should play your cards in choosing the right partners. However if your firm is prepared to make substantial investments into China, a local representative office will be of a long term benefit to aid your firm in facilitating business operations.
As a foreign business, you may also be a part of their “Mian Zi” or face building. Therefore photo taking with these partners can help to provide a testimonial to Chinese small medium companies to show their counterparts that their firm is of value to foreign partners. In addition, you can request your interpreter for written meeting minutes, but do let him or her know in advance of this request so they can prepare for it.
Lastly, if you are not confident in entering the Chinese market or to source for the right Chinese partners, a good Chinese market research firms should be to support you to perform the market research, arranging your China business trips, interpretation services and lastly market entry into China.
About the Author:
Desmond Wong is a consultant of Starmass International. Starmass provides full professional consulting services to assist overseas companies in China market research, competitor study and China market analysis till export to China