How do you close a deal when your counterpart doesn’t have the power to make the final decision, but you can’t get to meet the decision maker in person?
Question sent by Derek and answered by our expert Jan Vincent Meertens
Thank you for your question, Derek.
In some cultures, such as the Scandinavian cultures, people have a clear mandate and the information to conclude a deal. In others, such as China, people do not always have the mandate, nor the information.
In the more egalitarian Scandinavian societies, leaders are more open to share information and grant mandates than for instance in China, a hierarchical culture.
Even in the European Union, there is a variation in the way people prefer to deal with hierarchy. For example, in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe people often see hierarchy as a matter of convenience, not necessarily of power. In Latin cultures and Eastern Europe, hierarchy is more important; there is more power distance.
It is important to establish the level of mandate your counterpart has, if any. Also, what relationship this person has to the decision-maker. A decision-maker may have sent a person they trust and who is a close relationship. Try to confirm the information and relationships your counterpart has.
If it is not possible to meet or communicate with the decision-maker personally, make sure your counterpart has the information and confidence to inform the decision-maker to agree to your proposal.
Avoid loss of face for any of the persons involved, including yourself. For instance, if your counterpart does not seem to have received the mandate nor the information to be able to close the deal, avoid confronting them with this, or worse, bypass them to go directly to the decision-maker. Your counterpart will feel that they have lost face. The decision-maker may feel that you question their tactics or judgment. And you may lose face by not having shown the sensitivity to close relationships amongst your counterparts.
Finally: in societies with high power distance that are also collectivist, such as those in Asia, Africa and Latin America, schedule more time than you may be used to in order to achieve your goals. Establishing positions, trust, and relationships take time.