Netherlands: Let’s Make a Deal! – Part 1

2015-06-12

What you should know before negotiating

It’s unnecessary to have your business card translated, since most Dutch businesspeople are fluent in English. Promotional materials and instruction manuals, however, should be translated into Dutch, especially when dealing with complicated terminology.

There is a deep respect for higher education in this country; so be sure to include any university degree above a B.A. on your business card. Do not, however, mention it in conversation.

Even if you do not translate your presentation material into Dutch, it’s essential that any documents you distribute are clear and concise. Good visuals are another asset. The Dutch are used to high quality brochures and the like.

Power Point presentations are the standard, but many people are weary of them, so keep the number of slides down to a minimum. A good verbal presentation is at least as important.

Generally, Dutchmen treat women business travelers with considerable respect. However, the position of women in the Dutch labour market is not as progressive as one might expect. Many women have part-time jobs, limiting their chances for upward mobility, so women in high places are fairly rare.

Generally, the Dutch will not spend a lot of time socializing before a meeting or other business discussion. Often, as soon as the necessary introductions are made, they will proceed with the business at hand.

The Dutch tend to be wary of inflated claims, so use plenty of empirical evidence and other data to persuade them of the merit of your products or ideas. A simple and direct presentation will be appreciated.

Sometimes, Dutch companies will conduct background checks on prospective clients.

When evaluating the merits of a proposal or making a final decision, very little credence is given to subjective feelings, unless these are considered crucial to consumers as well.

This is a society of concrete facts, statistics and other hard data. Data and information are crucial, but do not throw in self-appraisals like ‘we’re the #1 this or that.’ Large is not necessarily felt to be good. Quality usually comes before quantity, unless the price clearly indicates cheaper bulk.

Don’t make promises lightly. You will be expected to keep every promise you make, no matter how offhand or insignificant it may seem. Moreover, if the Dutch suspect that they cannot trust you, they may very well call off the deal.

The Dutch respect qualities such as straightforwardness and honesty. In this culture, bluntness is preferred to deceptiveness or evasiveness. Usually, constructive criticism is felt to be more useful than compliments.

Honesty and straightforwardness are an essential part of doing business in the Netherlands. Consequently, when you really want to say ‘no’, tentative answers such as ‘I’ll consider it’, ‘We’ll see’, or ‘perhaps’ are not acceptable to the Dutch. Even if you find it difficult to say ‘no’, you’ll find that your Dutch counterparts will prefer and appreciate a candid reply.

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