China offers extraordinary growth opportunities both from the consumer demand to the supplier side. Yet doing business in China is not easy, as most who have tried can attest. Here are 7 recommendations to bolster your efforts on conducting business in China and ensure that you do things right the first time around:
1. Know someone in China; Introductions are crucial in China. Work with a company or individual who already has a Chinese presence; however, be aware that international marketing partnerships are only effective in Asia when you build relationships and work directly with your partner’s local staff.
2. Business cards; When receiving someone’s business card in China, accept it with both hands and a slight bow, read it in their presence, and take great pains to put it away in a safe place—in their presence. Do not bend, write on the card.When presenting a business card in China, use both hands and be sure the writing faces the person to whom you are presenting your card.When seated, place cards on the table. This shows respect. I find it also is an excellent way to remember names, provided you put the cards in the order at which the Chinese people are seated in front of you.
3. Small talk; In China, the art of small talk – conversing about your family and what you like to do in your spare time – is essential conversation in order for the Chinese to get to know you as a whole human being. Before you travel to China, find out what big sporting events are taking place so that you can chat intelligently about them. The point is to show you care, have studied up a bit and are serious about doing business in China. Oh, and don’t be taken aback if your Chinese counterparts ask you about your business, your revenues and how much money you make. Yes, these all seem like relatively personal questions but to the Chinese, it’s business. They are looking for common ground. Lastly, you will make a big impression if you make an effort to speak Chinese, even mastering simple statements, or demonstrate knowledge of the culture. It builds trust and goodwill.
4. Greetings; Forget about hugging and kissing in China when you meet people. A handshake is sufficient if it’s offered, or even a nod or slight bow is appropriate.Always stand up when being introduced and remain standing throughout the introductions.
5. Negotiations; Never take the “it’s my way or the highway” approach to conducting business in China. Keep your ego at home. Unlike westerners, the Chinese place great importance on the group and consensus. Keep that in mind when negotiating because what may seem like forever to you is the way the Chinese make decisions – a long and lengthy process.Face to face meetings are crucial in China and having a translator can help smooth over negotiations but may not necessarily shorten the amount of time spent on negotiations.Begin with the end in mind when you deal with the Chinese. Have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish and how you plan to get there. Keep notes on each round of negotiations, share with your counterparts and even have those involved sign off on the meeting notes. That way, you minimize misunderstandings along the way.
6. The art of silence; Silence can be used effectively during meetings in China. It gives one the opportunity to carefully consider what is being discussed and to formulate an appropriate response. Don’t try to fill the silence with small talk. Be patient. Learn to listen lots and speak less.
7. What to bring (gift-giving); Many Asian cultures follow the same protocol on gift giving: give gifts to everyone you meet with or a group gift or none at all. Present a gift, business rather than personal, with both hands and give them to the people in the order you were introduced or in the order of ranking (e.g., highest-ranking executive in the room first, so forth).Never give gifts of high value to people that you don’t know very well, as it might come across as brash on your part and could potentially embarrass the recipient. Don’t give gifts in sets of four because that symbolizes “death.” Consider gifts from your country or city and small items such as pens, golf balls or key chains.work well too.
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