United States: Let’s Make a Deal! – Part 2


What you should know before negotiating


Part 2: Negotiating in the U.S.


In a meeting, the participants will proceed with business usually after some brief, preliminary “small talk” about topics unrelated to the business at hand. This is generally practiced to ease tensions and create a comfortable environment before entering into business matters. Topics may range from sports, weather, or other smaller business topics. Personal matters should not be discussed during this time, or any time in the negotiation.

Usually, business is conducted at an extremely fast pace.

Regardless of the negotiator, company policy is always followed. Though they are risk-takers, American businesspeople will also have a financial plan which must be followed.

Americans regard negotiating as problem-solving through “give and take” based on respective strengths. Therefore, they will often emphasize their financial strength and/or position of power.

In negotiations, points are made by the accumulation of objective facts. This evidence is sometimes biased by faith in the ideologies of democracy, capitalism, and consumerism. The subjective feelings of the participants are not as much of a factor. Therefore, they will not spend much time seeking consensus.

Often, American businesspeople try to extract an oral agreement at the first meeting. However, U.S. salespeople sometimes bring final contracts to first meetings with prospective clients. In large firms, contracts under $10,000 can often be approved by one middle manager in a single meeting.

Part 3: About Business Cards

Your business card will not be refused, but you may not always receive one in return. Try not to be offended–in the U.S., the rituals involved in exchanging business cards are sometimes not observed as closely as in other cultures.

The recipient of your card will probably place it into a wallet, which a man may put in the back pocket of his pants. This gesture is done for convenience and is not meant to be a sign of disrespect, as it might be in other cultures.

In many cases, business cards are not exchanged unless you want to contact the person later.

Equality, Diversity, and the American Way

Much emphasis is placed, in theory, on the equality of individuals in the United States. Personal equality is guaranteed by law.

Nonetheless, ethnic and social bias does exist. Women are still striving for equality in pay and positions of authority. In the structure of the workplace, there is often inequality in employees’ roles.

Compared with many cultures, the United States is moving forward rapidly and successfully with its unique diversity. Expect to work with women and people of different ethnic backgrounds, religions, and cultures in the workplace at all levels and positions. Do not assume, for example, that a woman present in the meeting will be responsible for handling coffee. She may very well be leading the meeting and the person who will make the final decision. Treat everyone with respect and dignity to ensure a successful trip.

Many people in the United States have a limited knowledge of cultures beyond their own country and its own diverse subcultures. Some Americans may assume that their way is the “correct” or only way.

Business culture can vary greatly from company to company, because of America’s diversity. Learn as much about the business culture of your foreign associates before meeting with them through their website, marketing materials, and business literature.