07 November 2018
10 Tips to Succeed in Negotiations with Germans
German business etiquette rules
Here you will find some useful tips to bear in mind before you start negotiating with Germans:
Being late is a cardinal sin in Germany. It is always advisable to arrive 20-30 minutes before the meeting. Likewise, be sure to stay within schedule during the meeting. Germans are well-known for their strict punctuality, and even a few minutes’ delay can offend them. If you're late for a business meeting with Germans, don't expect to have any success with negotiations that day.
Just like meeting schedules, agendas should be greatly respected. Make a very detailed agenda and schedule a meeting time a few weeks in advance by telephone, Skype or e-mail. Before the meeting, make sure your agenda is translated into German. Although Germans tend to have a sound knowledge of English, hiring a good translation company to translate your agenda and important documents into German will help avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings.
In Germany, hierarchy is strictly observed. Negotiations are normally held by the people in the same position. And, in formal meetings, the highest-ranking businessmen will enter the room first. Address business associates using titles and last names. Remember that first names are only used by family and close friends.
The German handshake is firm and brief. Make sure you do it the same way to convey reliability and confidence. Shake hands with everyone in the room before the meeting. If you need to leave early, shaking hands with everyone again is the course of action to take, from the highest position to the lowest.
Concerning business dress etiquette, as Germans typically wear smart, formal, and conservative clothes, they look professional. Wearing dark suits is appropriate for both men and women. Avoid excessive accessories.
Remember to maintain eye contact when you address your German colleagues and do not put your hands in your pockets while speaking. Respecting other people’s space and avoiding any kind of physical contact —except for handshakes— is very important. Privacy and personal space are highly valued by Germans.
Germans are always direct and honest about what they are saying and what they want, and they will expect that from you as well. Be ready to provide high-quality, data-driven information to support your position. Germans will carefully review all your data and ask questions. Be sure to provide data with figures and to compare your product with others.
When it comes to business meals, what to expect and how to behave may change from country to country. If you're invited for dinner or lunch, wait for the host to propose time, place, food, and even conversation itself. Germans tend to use knife and fork to eat —regardless of what they are eating, so eat your food using both preferably, and remember that putting your elbows on the table is considered to be rude.
If you're planning to give a gift, it should preferably be small and of good quality —avoid super expensive gifts. Acceptable gifts are, for example, office equipment, a good bottle of liquor or good quality gift with your company's logo.
If you are discussing a price, it is very important that you give precise numbers. Demonstrate how well your product will sell, meeting the requirements of the German market, using numbers and figures. Don’t mention other markets. Make sure your contract is clear and contains concise terms and conditions.
All the previous aspects involve communication; so the communication process itself and cross-cultural differences are fundamental aspects to take care of to conduct successful business meetings.
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