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Published on Dec 17, 2013 in Featured Articles, Latin America, News

Negotiating in Argentina

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One would normally believe that negotiating in one country in Latin America would be the same as negotiating in another. However, while that may be somewhat true, each country in Latin America views negotiating a little differently, and these subtleties can make the difference between success and failure at the negotiating table. Argentina is one of those countries. Below are the components of the Argentinian negotiating style.

Decisions are generally made by consensus. Sharing some similarities with Chinese decision-making, Argentinian negotiators tend to be less individualistic and, instead, will get their group’s input prior to making a decision. This is seen as a way to retain harmony and relationships among group members. Therefore, when you’re negotiating or trying to make a point, ensure that you address the entire group and not just the person sitting across from you.

Respect is the cornerstone of negotiations. Honor, pride, and respect are important factors in the negotiating process. Just as in China, it’s important that your actions don’t cause your negotiating counterpart to lose face. The person you’re negotiating with will not consummate a transaction with someone who offends them or degrades them in any way. In addition, since transactions in Argentina are done on the basis of relationships, offending someone will likely be extremely detrimental to one’s other business interests in Argentina as one person’s influence will almost always transcend the transaction you’re negotiating on.

Hard-sell tactics don’t work. Being aggressive and using hard-sell techniques may end any further discussions you have with your Argentinian counterpart. Argentineans want long term relationships. Therefore, coming to a mutually agreeable solution is important, as your counterpart is looking at this transaction as the beginning of a business relationship. You’ll be viewed as believing your relationship with your counterpart’s company is short term if you employ this tactic.

Status is important. Who you are is extremely important in the Argentinian culture. Your position in the company, educational background, and even the hotel you’re staying in can be important. In your initial visit to an Argentinian company, upper level management should be present. Subsequent visits can then be attended by mid-level executives. This will demonstrate how seriously you take these meetings. In addition, even inadvertent actions can change an Argentinian’s perception. For example, carrying your own luggage to your hotel room, rather than using a porter, can cause you to be viewed as a lower ranking person. The reason for this is that there’s a wide gap between the rich and poor in Argentina. If you’re rich you’ll be staying at the best hotels, having a porter take your luggage to your room, and dressing appropriately. Argentinian businesspeople will want to work with someone on their social plane. As a result, in their eyes your actions and dress display who you are.

Conversations are close and direct. It’s common for Argentinians to engage you in conversation much closer than we’re used to. This often causes Westerners concern as we’re not generally comfortable with a short distance between us and the other party. You have to get used to this as backing away can be viewed as a sign that you’re uncomfortable with speaking to them. When Argentinians do speak, they’re usually very direct, but they may use exaggerated statements in their conversations. As a result, you may not know the real situation because of this tendency to exaggerate. Another tendency on the part of Argentinian businesspeople is that they speak loud, which is often uncomfortable to many negotiators. However, loud is good. If an Argentinian is quiet, it usually means that there’s a problem.

Don’t try and solve the world’s problems. Don’t discuss religion, politics, or sports if you can avoid it as criticism is not well received. Instead, stick to business discussions and avoid areas which might embarrass those with whom you’re negotiating.

Punctuality is essential for foreigners. Although it’s not uncommon for Latin American’s to arrive up to 30 minutes late for a meeting, they’ll expect foreigners to be on time, or no more than five to ten minutes late. Arriving past this time will be viewed as rudeness and not being fully committed to the negotiations at hand.

Address individuals by their title. Titles are important in Argentina. When addressing someone, use their professional title, such as doctor, professor, or use Senor, Senora, or Senorita, plus their family name. Only close friends will call each other by their first name. In addition, as a sign of respect, older people should be greeted before those who are younger.

Concessions don’t come easy. Argentineans have a difficult time compromising or giving concessions. In some respects, they feel that making a concession will cause them to lose face or esteem. Instead of coming right out and trying to force a concession, a better way to obtain one is to address that subject in a subsequent meeting after you’ve had time to make the other party aware of the concession you want. In this way, any barrier to your proposed concession can be gradually relaxed and positions reconsidered. Time gives your counterpart the opportunity to take another position and not lose face. Also, just as in China, reciprocity is expected. If a concession is made on one side of the negotiating table, a concession is expected from the other side. In addition, pricing in the negotiating process will rarely move more than 20 to 30 percent. Concessions will generally be made somewhere in this range.

Argentineans don’t like to share information. They feel that sharing information weakens their position at the bargaining table. Also, don’t open with your best offer as some Argentineans may consider this to be insulting.

Pressure techniques. Employing pressure techniques in Argentina is dangerous as you run the possibility of offending the other party. Therefore, a “take it or leave it” ultimatum almost never works as they’ll usually select the “leave it” portion. In addition, setting a time deadline isn’t usually effective as most Latin Americans will view this as an unwillingness on your part to establish a long term relationship.

Decision making is hierarchical. Decisions are made from the top down and authority is rarely delegated. Therefore, make sure you’re dealing with the person at the top. However, getting to this person may take some time as it’ll be necessary to work through intermediaries in order to get to the ultimate decision maker. As a result, maintaining good relationships with corporate intermediaries is very important. In addition, decision making is a process that can be painfully slow at times. This is because, on their side, the negotiating process is part relationship building and part cautiously moving forward. Be patient. If you attempt to rush this process you won’t accomplish anything except irritating your negotiating counterpart.

Contracts. Legal documents in Argentina tend to be lengthy and very detailed. However, most Argentinean businesspeople believe that the strength of what they’ve negotiated is not so much in the signed contract, as in the commitment both parties have to work together for their mutual benefit. In addition, attorneys should be brought into corporate meetings once negotiations are concluded. Earlier than this and their attendance will be viewed as a sign of mistrust.

Dress for success. A conservative impeccable appearance will be viewed favorably. Casual dress is not appropriate in Argentinean business meetings unless you’re attending an event where such dress is appropriate. Also, business is rarely discussed over meals. Instead, meals are considered a time to enjoy food and drink and to get to know one another.

Alan Refkin

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