Working and socializing in China is a challenge. For example, a very common problem, if you don’t have practice negotiating with companies from this country, is a lack of understanding when requesting a quote for a product from a manufacturer. At IBMH, our more than 20 years’ experience dealing with Asian businesses allows us to share some basics in the “art” of conversation with furniture hardware manufacturers in China, which we’re sure will make a difference. But, first of all, two words: patience and calm.
If you ever come to China for a fair or meeting with suppliers, follow these tips to ensure your trip is a success. Because every moment of your negotiation is important, always keep these in mind:
Preparing your meeting…
- • Personalized meeting. For the Chinese, it is extremely important to get to know you and have lunch or dinner together. Business negotiations tend to take much longer than what we are used to in the West, and part of them may be spent playing golf or going to karaoke.
- • Highly trained translator. Vitally important. For this reason, the IBMH team is fully bilingual.
- • Our time is linear (avoid PowerPoint presentations!), while their time is circular, turning over the same point in conversation again and again.
- • For a personal invitation to someone’s home or a restaurant, bring one or two gifts. In particular, something practical, such as fruit or cognac, or something you know is related to this person’s hobby. If they have children, you could even bring a toy. In the big cities, bouquets of flowers are becoming fashionable. NOTE: we recommend being careful with the price, so as to not put your Chinese contact in a difficult situation when returning the gesture. Never bring a watch as a gift, because in Chinese, “give watch” — 送 钟 — sounds the same as “funeral ritual” — 送终 — and many people associate watches with death.
- • Always arrive 15 minutes early for your appointments.
- • Clothing and colors. For formal meetings, both men and women will dress elegantly. For more personal social meetings, such as a lunch at someone’s home, dress casually. Also, don’t forget that yellow represents money, red represents good fortune, and white is used for funerals.
- • Handshakes are not common in China. If it is done, after they make the first move, it will be a brief, reserved greeting.
- • Business cards. These are received with both hands and read immediately.
- • Determine who’s who in the Chinese company and ensure that your boss deals with the Chinese boss. Around the table, one always sits across from their Chinese equivalent in terms of hierarchy.
During the meeting…
- • Expressing yourself. Avoid talking with your hands, speaking loudly or interrupting. Listen to others respectfully and attentively. Does the Chinese contact answer their phone several times during a meeting? They are not being discourteous.
- • Saying no. The Chinese language is one of the most prolific when it comes to saying no. A Chinese contact will always leave the door open for more and more negotiations.
- • Smile. NOTE: depending on the context, a nice smile can also be a way of saying NO.
- • Eating and drinking. Lunch is eaten early, and wine or a white 52% ABV liquor called Baiju are drunk. Do not drink alone, and toast to recognize others: when you clink glasses, try to make it so that your glass is below that of your contact, as a sign of respect. NOTE: Chinese manners may seem a bit “odd”, such as noisily slurping up food.
What not to talk about in conversation with furniture hardware manufacturers in China …
- • NEVER talk about politics or religion, and definitely not about personal considerations such as how China is perceived by the world.
- • Do NOT mix business with politics. Dinners and lunches outside of work are times to get to know each other better and talk about culture, sports, a specific interest, etc.
What to talk about in conversation with furniture hardware manufacturers in China …
- • Prepare topics. The Chinese speak freely about age, weight, family, salaries… Hearing someone say that you’ve gained weight since they last saw you is a compliment!
What do you think of all this information? Do you feel ready for your first social encounter with Chinese manufacturers?
At IBMH, we have spent many years working and living in China, so negotiations and conversation with furniture hardware manufacturers in China is our daily business. Furthermore, our team is multicultural, made up of European and Chinese professionals, and we have ample experience in strategic purchase management of furniture and construction hardware.