If you are looking for business contacts in Mexico, it is advisable to make them locally, e.g. at a trade fair or during an organized business trip. Contacts in Mexico are often made through existing networks. Several visits will probably be necessary because the business culture there is based on good personal relationships between business partners. Mexicans want to get to know not just the potential partner company, but especially the individuals involved. So the first step is to establish trust, which may take some time.
Once first contact has been established, it is very important to focus on and cultivate a personal relationship. It is generally advisable to speak to your Mexican partner in person instead of writing long and detailed e-mails.
Names And Titles
As a legacy of Spanish colonial times, Mexicans usually have two surnames: They bear their father’s first surname and their mother’s first surname. This occasionally leads to confusion on the part of international business partners. For example, your business partner is called Daniel Ponce Morales and is married to María Pulido Lara. As you can see, both spouses keep their last names and there is no common family name. If they have a child, she could be called Angélica Ponce Pulido.
The first surname is always more important than the second. Your business partner will probably introduce himself to you at your first personal meeting as Daniel Ponce. Address him as Señor Ponce and not just with the second surname Morales.
Mexicans often use professional titles, e.g. ingeniero, licenciado (for economists), doctor or abogado (for lawyers) combined with the respectful usted, which means “you”. This applies above all upon a first meeting, where there are significant differences in hierarchy or age and when dealing with authorities. Do not be surprised if the titles used do not necessarily correspond to a person’s education. Someone who does something technical professionally is addressed with ingeniero and someone who is more involved in business, with licenciado or, in the female form, with licenciada.
Generally, in the course of your everyday professional life, you soon be on a first-name basis and use the informal version of “you”. To do this, it is of course important that you introduce yourself both with your first and last names and not just say “Metzger, pleased to meet you”.
Business cards are exchanged during a first meeting. This happens informally, often with the comment that you can get in touch at any time if you need something. Make sure that the name of your position gives you status. Otherwise, you will not be taken seriously as a business and negotiating partner. In Mexico, experienced clerks often have the title of Manager.
When you visit Mexico, you will arrive at an international airport, such as Mexico City or Monterrey. If you have already made some initial contacts, you will probably be picked up by your new partner or he or she will have sent a driver to take you to the hotel.
Mexicans like to start a meeting with a potential business partner with some informal conversation. Elaborate business dinner in an exclusive restaurant is the perfect way to do this. This is a good opportunity to cultivate the developing personal relationship and to learn more about the person, their family, hobbies and tastes. Do not talk business right away but wait until your Mexican partner does.
For business people from countries where small talk is less important, this step of getting to know each other in detail often seems like time wasted. You want to talk about business opportunities after all, not hobbies. However, relaxed and trust-building conversations are crucial for Mexicans when it comes to entering into a business relationship. In other words, what you invest in the relationship at the beginning will always benefit you later when working together. In Mexico, business is absolutely personal.
Presenting Products And Services
If you want to introduce your products or services for the first time, you should also keep in mind that the relationship with your potential buyers or partners is almost more important than the service itself. First and foremost, you must be convincing as a person, then your product will also be convincing. Do not talk about facts and technical details in the first place but combine the advantages of the product/service with your own experiences and personal stories. Appeal to your audience emotionally.
Many Mexican business people speak English very well, but you will earn some brownie points if you speak some Spanish yourself and provide information material, brochures and presentation slides in Spanish as well. If possible, make sure that your printed materials have been translated by a person who speaks Mexican Spanish. There are many fine differences to the Spanish spoken in Spain.
Maintaining Long-term Contacts
Mexicans spend a lot of time getting to know each other personally because their goal is a long-term business relationship. Loyalty plays a decisive role in Mexican companies and collaborations. If a Mexican business partner has the impression that you are loyal, he will in return stand up for you and your interests.
Once a personal and friendly relationship has been established, you can call each other at any time. You can also simply contact someone now and then, even if you do not have a major concern. If you have a difficult problem to solve, you can also call late at night or at the weekend. In Mexico, many problems are solved through contacts. Therefore, maintain good and informal contact not just with your direct business partners but also with drivers, assistants and other staff. They will be happy to help you if you have a good relationship with them.
Extract from Business Culture Mexico, Courtesy of CONBOOK Verlag