This time I have taken a different approach to writing this blog post. I’ve selected 6 blog posts about negotiations in Saudi Arabia, which I will share with you guys!
People from Saudi Arabia have a holistic approach to negotiations. What this means is that instead of discussing different parts of the negotiation process on a step-by-step basis, they first look at the deal as a whole. What are the common interests that we are trying to achieve? Parts of the deal are therefore interrelated,with the focus on the whole picture, instead of small details. In the process of the discussion, Saudi’s can therefore jump from one discussion point to the other in a, from a Western perspective, seemingly unstructured fashion.
The way people from Saudi Arabia speak is often characterized by vague language, stories, and metaphors. One thing any cross-cultural negotiator will have notices is that people from different cultures use different tactics to to confuse the other party or manipulate the outcome of the negotiation. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the metaphoric language they use is meant to be such an unfair tactic. The idea behind the use of this kind of language, is twofold: first of all, it ensures that nobody at the table loses face due to direct confrontations, and second of all, the use of language as an art form is often what logical arguments are from people from the West. In other words, beautiful language is meant to show the individual’s credibility and trustworthiness.
One party to keep in mind are the advisers of the party you are negotiating with. Relationships based on trust and loyalty are of utmost importance in Saudi Arabia, so your negotiating partner will take the advice of the people around him or her very seriously. So it becomes important that you do not only influence the opinion of the key decision maker, but that you also develop a good relationship with the people around him or her. In the book “how to negotiate anything with anyone anywhere around the world“, Frank Acuff argues that in some cultures special interest groups can make or break a deal. These are, for examples, government agencies, who have an interest in the deal, and are led by the brother of your negotiation partner.
People in Saudi Arabia focus on common interests, rather than a win-or-loose approach. In the West, we have a strong emphasis on dominance, and consequently approach negotiations in a confrontational manner, with a clear winner and loser. Saudia Arabians focus on maintaining the relationship instead, by taking the negotiation process much more slowly, and focusing on building trust and rapport first. If the external conditions change after a contract has been made, they are also much more likely to make concessions in regards to the contract, that provide support for the disadvantaged party to maintain a positive relationship.
In Saudi Arabia, a greater status is placed on hierarchy and status. The result is not only that the final decision about the deal is often in the hands of a single individual decision-maker, but also that status can be an important bargaining point. In addition to the financial value of a deal, which is probably what Western negotiators think about the most, people in the Middle East will often ask themselves whether or not the relationship with someone, and the deal they are making, will have a positive- or a negative effect on their status. Keep this in mind and use it to your own advantage!