Negotiating with German business partners – How does it work?

How do I successfully negotiate with German business partners? What needs to be considered, and what should I avoid? These were the questions that Chinese MP participants looked into at the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) during the seminar “Negotiating with German Business Partners”. The seminar is an important part of the four-week programme at ZEW that the executives from China attended in autumn of 2017.

Because differences in negotiations exist between different countries and cultures, it is important for MP participants to learn about the particularities of negotiating with Germans. Ultimately, negotiations with German business partners are not only an existential part of the participants’ plans for cooperation, but their results will also have a direct impact on reaching the goals of the Manager Training Programme as a whole.

Barbara Hey, ZEW continuing education expert and trainer with many years of experience, held the seminar. The negotiation training provides the participants with an overview of the particularities of various negotiating techniques, also delving into country-specific differences in negotiations. The classic negotiation techniques, cooperative (soft) and competitive (hard) bargaining, are compared. In addition, the seminar offers an introduction to the Harvard method of principled negotiation and considers it in contrast to the classic negotiation methods. By applying various methods, executives can both acquire theoretical knowledge through interaction and share their own experiences while trying out what they have learned. During the seminar, they discussed practical examples in which various negotiation methods can take effect. They described conflict or negotiation situations from day-to-day company business and analyzed in small groups which alternative solution options the Harvard method would offer for the respective negotiation situations. “It is always impressive to see how self-critically the MP participants can reflect on their actions and then derive impulses for further professionalizing their conduct in negotiations”, notes Hey.

By using role play the Chinese executives could also practically apply their newly acquired knowledge of different negotiation techniques. This made clear that knowledge of a negotiation method alone is not sufficient to attain a satisfactory result for all in a negotiation. “Why did we fail in the negotiation role play? Because we didn’t sufficiently take the lessons from the Harvard method from our seminar on intercultural management into account,” one participant reflected. “Today we have learned that a win-win situation can only arise if the negotiations are built on a foundation of trust. You have to be open and honest with your counterpart. To achieve mutual benefits, we have to give up our old habits.”

Overall, the MP participants rated the seminar as very useful for their further cooperation plans during the time they are in Germany for the training and beyond, as well as for their day-to-day work in China. The interactive phases of the seminar were especially popular. Many of the participants emphasized after the seminar that they intend to integrate the Harvard method in their future everyday business dealings.

By Friederike Bodenstein-Dresler
Center for European Economic Research GmbH