Negotiating Across Cultures

As business becomes more global, it is inevitable that we will need to communicate and negotiate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Culture is a complete way of living and impacts both our verbal and our non-verbal communication. Negotiating with these communication difficulties can be very difficult.

Cultural communication differences occur mainly in five areas:

1. Their treatment of time

2. The directness of their communication

3. Their level of formality

4. Their propensity to negotiate

5. Their tendency to focus on the individual or the group


Different cultures treat time very differently. Monochronic cultures are driven by timelines and deadlines. Punctuality, to them, is a foundation-stone of professionalism. If they have a meeting at 10.00am they will arrive beforehand and be ready to start on time.

Polychronic cultures view deadlines as flexible and are much less strict with their punctuality (and expectations of others). In the example above, they will plan to be at the meeting by 10.00am; but will struggle to get there by 10.10am.

Those from a monochromic culture will often misjudge polychronics as unreliable & disorganised. Worse still, they will perceive the other is using the ‘slow-boat’ technique – deliberately progressing slowly to make it harder for the other side to walk away (because they have so much time and energy invested in the negotiation already.)

Communication Directness

The directness of our communication is determined by our preference for high or low context communication. With high context communication, much of the meaning is inferred. You have to ‘read between the lines’ and interpret the message as much from what is not said as what is said.

Low context speakers are more direct and blunt. They say what they mean and mean what they say! They are more concerned about being precise and clear about their expectations than avoiding difficult conversations or saving face.


This is a moving scale with different cultures having different levels of formality at the initial meeting and as the relationship progresses. This impacts on so many conspicuous areas (method of greeting, forms of address, touching, topics of conversation) that it deserves constant vigilance. Those from a high-formality culture may be perceived as stiff and inflexible, while those from a culture with a lower level of formality may be perceived as rude or insensitive.

Propensity to Negotiate

With some cultures, haggling is a way of life: everything is negotiable… always. These are called ‘high-negotiation’ cultures. Their view of the world is that circumstances constantly change, so why not ask if these changes have opened up more options.

In contrast, those from a non-negotiating culture will bargain as part of the negotiating process; but, in their minds, once the deal is done, it’s locked-in. They find those from a high-negotiating frustrating and may even misjudge them as being manipulative.

Individual or Group Focus

Some cultures celebrate the individual. These individualist cultures produce people who are comfortable in the limelight and expect recognition and credit for their accomplishments.

The alternative – collectivist cultures – value the community or group more than the individual. This produces people who will be less comfortable being singled out for attention or praise.

East Vs West?

Some writers have looked at cultural differences comparing Eastern and Western cultures. If this was ever valid, it is certainly too simplistic in today’s world. Here are two reasons:

• People move between cultures so much, their behaviour becomes a mix of both. Consider the number of people whose education has been a mix of Eastern Primary and Secondary Schools and Western Universities. Many Westerners have spent a majority of their career working in the East.

• Even within those hemispherical groupings there is massive variation. Consider the difference between negotiating with someone from mainland China and a Japanese; or the difference between negotiating with a German and an Australian.

Culture Vs Personality

Just because culture is the obvious difference between two parties, it is often blamed for negotiating difficulties when the actual problem is a personality clash. Cultural stereotyping is a powerful temptation that will only sabotage your attempts to reach agreement. Treat them as people first.

To effectively negotiate with someone from another culture, consider the five areas highlighted in this article. Where do you fit on a scale of each of these criteria? Where does the other party fit? If there are any significant differences you can prepare for them. For example, if the other party is more polychronic than you, you might allow for this when setting meeting times or in time-limiting your offer.

Cultural differences are a factor that will increasingly affect your negotiation success. Defining and quantifying your cultural differences will help you better understand the other person and make it more likely that they will understand you – a recipe for great deals!

Ensuring Productivity Quality Rather Than Just Simply Being Productive

Productivity is something that all individuals and companies strive for. But, it is not enough to be just productive and to churn out bulks of product without looking into quality control. That is simply irresponsible. Productivity is just one gauge of company and personal success that is why it cannot be the sole factor in determining it. The quality of the product and the services must also be considered to make sure that the consumers are satisfied and keeps on coming back.

There are a lot of benefits into ensuring productivity quality and one of them has been mentioned above and that is customer loyalty. A satisfied customer will keep coming back to the same product or service and may even be a valuable advertising medium, when said customer brings friends and acquaintances to utilize the products.

Another benefit with implementing productivity quality is gaining the ability to command a higher market price. People would still be drawn to your products and would be willing to shell out a little more money just to get a higher quality product or service. A long term benefit of implementing productivity quality is that a company or an institution is bound to flourish with it. When a company has gained the trust of its customers and has created a name for it, then it is considered synonymous with high quality products and services. You can be certain that such a company will enjoy a longer shelf life compared to others who took productivity without first considering quality.

It may seem very tempting to only focus on the productivity level of an individual or a company and not look at the quality of the products, but it may, at some point cause the demise of the business or cause immense negative effects on the individual. One of the most obvious and significant Cons of plainly productivity centric systems is the imminent demise of quality.

If a company’s only goal is to produce as much as they can no matter what the quality of the product, then they will eventually suffer loss. Although, producing low quality products at immense amounts may be good for some companies because they can sell these products at ridiculously low prices. They will most definitely have a market in some areas where customers only look for quick fixes and don’t expect their purchases to last. If however, if a company is aiming for customer loyalty and trust in their brand, then they most definitely should not focus on the quantity productivity level alone.

When implementing Productivity Quality, the revenue of a company should not suffer. Ways should be found to compensate for the cut backs due to the pressures of quality control. As mentioned above, companies that have high quality products are able to command higher prices for such products and are still able to hold on to their market because of their standards. So, for a company that plans to last long in the market, high productivity quality should always be practiced.

Commercial Agents – A Top Sales Pitch or Presentation Today

When it comes to commercial real estate or retail real estate we tend to focus on the features of the property as part of the marketing process. We inspect the property, review the target market, and build on the features that we determine are important to the marketing process.

Whilst this process works quite successfully for listed properties, it also needs to work successfully for you personally. Consider these questions:

  • Exactly what are the features of the service that you bring to your customers and prospects?
  • Why are you any different than any other agent in the local area?

To be a top agent in this industry, you really do need to determine some solid points of difference and features that you bring to your clients and prospects.

There is no point in being the same as every other agent in the local area.

When you ask an average agent about their relevance to the client and the listing, and perhaps even seek some guidance on the points of difference in their service, they will usually give you one or more of the following comments:

  • We have been in the area a long time
  • We understand the market
  • We are better than the other agents in the area
  • We have done the deals
  • We have a great team of professionals
  • People trust us to do the job
  • We know what we’re doing
  • We have a significant amount of knowledge and experience

Whilst these statements may be relevant and correct, just about every competitor in your property market will say the same thing. Clients get bored in listening to generality and soft marketing pitches.

There are no real points of difference in any of the above comments for the client to choose you as the best agent or salesperson to help them as opposed to any of your competitors.

Real points of difference are driven from strategy and confidence. Both of those are personal traits that can be incorporated by you into every pitch and sales presentation. This is an individual thing and that is what makes a top agents stand well and truly above everyone else in the market.

You can pick a top agent in the presentation and connection that they make with the client; they connect with relevance.

Cut out the ‘Generality’

The client doesn’t want to hear generality; they need to be convinced that you truly understand the best way forward to produce the best results for them in the shortest possible time. Those facts will always be built around strategy and confidence.

To solve the client connection problem, try answering the following questions for the client in your sales pitch or presentation:

  1. How can we approach the market uniquely to achieve a better rate of enquiry than that which applies to competing buildings currently?
  2. What will be the target market and how will you attract the target market to the property?
  3. What makes the listed property stand out as unique and special to the target market segment?
  4. How would you inspect the property with qualified prospects so that they fully understand the features of the property?
  5. Given the features of the property and the improvements as they currently exist, how will you encourage negotiation and the process of going to contract or lease?
  6. What challenges can you help the client with now as part of consolidating the listing and marketing process?

These questions are far more relevant to the client in the listing process than the generic statements that we spoke of earlier. If you can address these five questions specifically in your listing and sales pitch, it is quite likely that your chances of attracting the listing will be significantly improved.

You are actually the product or service that needs to be sold first; when you do that well, the listing becomes easier.

They say practice makes perfect, and when it comes to commercial and retail real estate in today’s market, the statement remains very relative. Take the five factors above and refine them into a specific sales presentation process covering your property specialty and property service.