Thailand: Let’s Make a Deal! – Part 1

2015-06-12

What you should know before negotiating

When making a presentation to Thais, especially in Bangkok, you can use English and have all of your slides and handouts in English. However, make sure to speak clearly and without any idiomatic or other complex language, as it will embarrass the people you are presenting to if you lose them with overly complicated language. Thais generally are the most comfortable with British and American speakers. Other nationalities and accents can sometimes cause hesitation. To overcome this, always keep in mind the need to speak slowly and clearly.

Don’t be afraid to take an interpreter if the language will be a problem.

Make your materials colourful and full of photographs and other items that communicate the product or service being presented. Try to avoid large black and white tracts of text, especially if it is in English. Be careful also of losing your message through lack of content.

You can be confident, especially in larger companies and definitely in Bangkok, to use English as the language for all of your proposals. Contracts in English are also acceptable.

Business cards are almost always exchanged at the beginning of the meeting and it’s good to try and explain exactly who people are on your team in the hope that key decision makers are identified. It is not always easy to identify roles in the organisation, especially if senior staff are uncomfortable speaking English.

Business cards should be exchanged with the most senior person / oldest person first if possible. Normally, the host of the meeting will initiate the exchange of cards. If none is offered, it is possible to present your card at the end of the meeting along with any materials you wish to present to the company as a part of your presentation.

Make sure to have lots of copies of your proposal–ideally one for each person attending the presentation and a few spare for staff unable to attend, but who may be interested.

Building a good relationship is an important part of the negotiation process, so don’t be afraid of simple conversation, normally at either the start or end of your ‘official’ presentation. Thais place a lot of importance on ‘liking’ a person, and never underestimate this. Invitations to activities such as golf, dinner, and other functions should always be accepted and seen as an opportunity to get to know each other.

It is very rare for a decision to be made on the spot. Instead, a call back is required once a few days have passed. Thais generally are not confident decision makers and often need to consult with several different people before making a decision. If they are not ready to do business, then this is a common excuse. Don’t be put off by this, instead see it as an opportunity to further develop the relationship by offering to meet again, or present more information.

When negotiating, be aware that if your Thai counterpart is focussing on small, insignificant details as problems, these may indicate there are larger problems that need your attention. Because your Thai counterpart doesn’t want you to lose face, or confront you directly, these little sign posts are very important. To identify what the problem is, try standing back and asking questions about details, all the time avoiding the specific topic but being careful to place all the pieces together.

The pace of business is often much slower than in western countries and it is not a good idea to push things along at a faster pace. Confrontation is almost always avoided, and a cool head and a pleasant disposition are normally rewarded with a positive response.

Company policy is usually followed quite strictly, particularly in larger organisations.

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