How to use creativity when negotiating with Chinese hardware suppliers

To a certain extent, negotiating is a daily part of almost everyone’s job. You don’t have to work exclusively in that field or manage business operations worth several millions of euros in order to have to face all sorts of negotiations. But at IBMH, one thing is clear: to know how to use creativity when negotiating with Chinese furniture & construction hardware suppliers is part of our success. We share our vision to offer you more profitable solutions, ones that go beyond “I win, you lose” or “we both win, but both lose something”.

Why can’t we all win?

Many researchers point to a third route when looking for solutions in a negotiation, much more ambitious but also with better results: the creative route, in other words, thinking beyond the obvious solutions.

Gregorio Billikopf of the University of California, Davis, explains why it is important to look beyond the first solution that occurs to us, and gives the example of the story of the two sisters and the orange: two sisters were fighting over an orange, so they decided to split it in half. One of them ate the fruit and threw away the peel, while the other threw away the fruit and kept the peel, because she wanted to make a cake. If they had looked past the obvious solution (splitting it in half) and communicated with each other, they would have realized that by having one keep all of the fruit and the other keep all of the peel, 100% of their needs would be met (as opposed to 50% in the first solution).

And if they had communicated a bit more and used some creativity, they could have improved the results even further: in addition to distributing the fruit and the peel of the orange, they could have divided the seeds up to plant their own orange trees for the future.

Tips to improve creativity in negotiations

But to be sure, using creativity when negotiating with Chinese furniture & construction hardware suppliers is not a simple task; it requires preparation and practice.

  • •Set aside some time to prepare the negotiation

    Don’t just settle for bringing a list of the goals you want to achieve. It is very important that you invest time in thinking about what you want the process to look like. Organize information about the other party (what you know, what you need to know) and see possible alternatives. Jeff Weiss, professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, explains in an article in Harvard Business Review that the preparation time should be at least equal to the time the negotiation is expected to take.

  • •Brainstorming

    In his article, Weiss recommends that we make note of every possibility that occurs to us so that we don’t get stuck in the two most obvious solutions. He even encourages us to invite our coworkers to brainstorm with us. The point isn’t to find solutions that are 100% realistic; the act of writing them down will give you a broader vision in the negotiation that follows.

  • •Listen to the other party

    As you have probably read hundreds of times, this doesn’t just mean listening for what you want to hear. You have to “really” listen. Ask open-ended questions, and give others time to express their point of view. In the case of the story of the two sisters, a good conversation beforehand would have saved them from a mediocre solution.

  • •Control your emotions

    Billikopf points out in his article something that you have likely experienced at some point: anger, pride, shame… Any negative emotion can kill your creativity. A good exercise you can practice is to try not to let these emotions control you. Mindfulness, stress management and meditation techniques can help a lot.


In short, being a good negotiator is not reserved for the privileged few. We can all find solutions that contribute value. It requires preparation, practice and being willing to learn from others.

What about you?…

  • •Do you use creativity when negotiating with Chinese hardware suppliers?
  • •What is your negotiation style?
  • •What problems do you tend to encounter during negotiations?

At IBMH, we are experts in purchase management and quality control in China. We specialize in hardware and accessories for the furniture and construction industries. Negotiation is in our DNA, and the results of our operations are synonymous with success.

Would you like us to manage your imports? Contact us.