Improving Communications & Negotiations with International Suppliers


Written by: Jennifer J. Stepniowski, Communications Director, Pro QC International Developing and maintaining strong supplier partnerships depends on a solid foundation of successful communication. Negotiating in the international business environment requires communication skills fully integrated with cultural knowledge and considerations. In Pro QC's thirty years of experience at the table with clients and suppliers around the world, we've seen a range of outcomes where communications are concerned. The impact is quite often more substantial than one may think, with some arguing that communications are the primary reason for a partnership's success or failure. Our top three recommendations for improving supplier communications includes: 1. Recognize that it's about understanding. In order for us to understand a perspective outside of our own, we need to actively listen. Recognizing that communication is about understanding means that we allow all parties to express their position without judgment, interruption or disrespect. Communication ceases to exist without this. Ask yourself, what is their purpose as compared to yours at this particular moment? Our clients and their suppliers often find their objectives are more similar than they thought. With common ground, understanding is less stressful and more focused on problem solving. Taking time to listen and evaluate in any given situation actually saves time because it's likely to avoid conflicts, miscommunication, etc. 2. Nonverbal communication counts. In addition to managing our own nonverbal communications, it is helpful to assess the other party's as well. The tone of someone's voice is considered nonverbal communication. Be mindful of the tone in any communications, from email to face-to-face. Clarify before assuming. With operations in over thirty-eight countries, we recognize there's a heavy reliance on email. But, when emails and regular phone calls fail to get desired results, try video conferencing or a face-to-face. Pro QC has qualified engineers and/or auditors to represent client interests on-site as well. 3. Recognize cultural considerations. "Business crosses cultural divides constantly, and as a result it is important that people understand cultural differences and how to communicate effectively across cultures." It is a mistake to assume that communications occur and follow the same norms across cultures. In fact, cultural considerations are often easily misinterpreted and can result in significant misunderstandings. Harvard Business Review recently posted a Tool that Maps out Cultural Differences. This tool "helps navigate the cultural minefield more systematically." Identifying eight dimensions, such as scheduling, leading, and trusting, this tool captures most of the likely differences between cultures and includes a rating of a large sample. The examples provide useful insight into categories identified as Common Ground, Differences and Advice. Considerations in international negotiations An article recently posted to Inc. discusses charts by Richard Lewis that claim to reveal how to negotiate with people from around the world. As a third-party quality provider, this is a key value for us understanding that cultural considerations are critical components in the negotiation process. Having local knowledge and cultural expertise is a helpful advantage in the communications process. Remember, what one culture considers a defect another culture may find perfectly acceptable. Also, not all terminology directly translates across all languages. Pro QC helps our clients bridge the cultural and language differentials to help our clients achieve their objectives in quality and conformance according to their definitions and expectations.

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