negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers

Forget the stereotypes before negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers


Despite the speed with which it is developing and taking over the market, China continues to be a mystery to many people. There are stereotypes about their culture and customs that Western businesspeople still lean on. On many occasions, this complicates professional relationships with furniture hardware manufacturers. One of the dangers of stereotypes is that they make us believe that we understand a given person/situation, when we are actually going off of incomplete or, occasionally, false assumptions.

When thinking about negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers, the first thing that comes to mind for many is:

  • • Carefully observing business card protocol
  • • Hiring a good translator

And although it’s true that these are aspects that need to be taken into account, they only scratch the surface of the negotiation process in China.

Understand the details of negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers

At IBMH, we have spent many years working in this country, so we have a good understanding of the business climate there. Businesses have evolved over the years, but you can’t make generalizations about a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Without a doubt, negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers isn’t always easy.

It will take time

And when we say time, we mean a LONG time. Negotiating in China isn’t a two-day affair. Make sure that your company is aware of this and that they support you. In general, negotiating in China is a marathon, not a sprint. Your company should know that you will need:

  • • Several trips to China
  • • Long stays
  • • Personal invitations
  • • Many hours of work
  • • Conversations between bosses who sometimes won’t have anything to do with the negotiation

And all to proactively establish the atmosphere of trust that is so important to the Chinese.

Work on your patience

Many people have lost out on very important negotiations by trying to force an agreement prematurely. Cultural roots in China have a substantial effect on business. The writings of Lao Tsu about Yin and Yang and the search for a middle point (the Tao) between two forces are the reason why Chinese negotiators place all of their attention on the process rather than the objectives. Through bartering and facing different viewpoints, the Chinese look for a way to find the best solution for both parties. Because of this, it is very likely that all parts of the agreement will be negotiated at the same time, and that you will have to go back to the same subjects over and over again, many times. Understanding this is essential in order to establish an appropriate negotiation strategy.

This, generally speaking, is how the negotiation goes. Apart from that, we would add:

  • • The specialization
  • • The unique idiosyncrasies of furniture hardware manufacturers in different areas of China

A true business challenge in which the IBMH team are experts.

Plan your negotiation strategy meticulously

Any negotiation requires prior preparation, but in the case of China, it is essential. We mean it when we say you must prepare:

  • • An in-depth analysis of your business
  • • Analysis of situation and needs
  • • Relationship of competitors and characteristics, strengths, and other relevant information
  • • Expected results in the short- and long-term

Chinese culture values effort, and something like that will be seen in a very positive light.

On the other hand, due to the way negotiating in China is done, with veeeery loooong timelines, so that you don’t feel lost during the process, your company will need to prepare:

  • • The objectives you want to achieve
  • • The concessions that you are willing to make

Context is important

  • • Don’t forget to respect hierarchy and harmony during the deal, inviting people to dinner, to sporting events, etc. Also, a good way to advance a negotiation is to ask lots of questions (this can even help to overcome an impasse situation). By asking questions, you help to build that intermediate path that will eventually be the result of the negotiation.
  • • Look for an intermediary. We aren’t just talking about hiring an interpreter to translate the negotiations. The best route is to find an intermediary who has good connections in the country, who is Chinese and knows Western customs in order to prevent a faux pas. This point is very important, because the negotiation will benefit from the prior trust of several Chinese businesspeople, and that will go a long way.

China is a fascinating country that is full of possibilities. This, despite the fact that many see it as a closed, inaccessible culture, as we mentioned before. IBMH began negotiating in China with furniture hardware manufacturers more than 23 years ago, and has continued to do business successfully for its clients ever since.

Understanding the country and putting in the time is mandatory in order to build business relationships. At IBMH, we are experts in the furniture and construction hardware industry, and also experts on China. We can help you to increase the profitability of your imports in much less time. We’re sure of it.