US-Americans follow the same basic rule in negotiation that applies to all business communication in the USA: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Experienced negotiators will clearly express the terms they expect for certain goods or services. There might be a firmer tone than usual, but the motto is still: Hard on facts, soft on people. Stick to the facts and keep calm.
US-Americans are usually well-trained negotiators. They will know their target and work for it. Allow some room for negotiations to demonstrate your goodwill. However, your margin shouldn’t appear to be excessive, otherwise, US-Americans might view your business practices as suspicious and you yourself as not trustworthy.
Be flexible and creative
US-Americans are generally flexible and creative in negotiations. If you cannot reach an agreement on price, they may propose other options or additional services. Don’t reject these creative suggestions too quickly. They are attempting to sweeten the deal, and are not trying to win every point. Alternate terms are considered concessions.
US-Americans usually aim for a win-win solution in the spirit of American sportsmanship which works toward fairness in all business affairs. However, there are exceptions for whom the motto might be: Winner takes all!
Communication is everything
In the United States, successful negotiations often depend on good communication and excellent presentation. Try to appear self-confident as it is what US-Americans are used to. Understatement on the other hand is not very well received.
Highlight exactly how your customers will benefit from your product and use practical, concrete arguments. Focus on the advantages and benefits you will offer your customers. Make sure you do your homework first so you can be knowledgeable about the US-American company’s needs and requirements.
When planning your negotiation strategy, keep in mind that sometimes, US-Americans don’t focus on long-term plans and goals, but rather on the business at hand. Quick profits or benefits usually count most, because as they say, “Time is money!”
Don’t aim for a binding contract at the outset; first, look for a deal that might be developed further in the future. US-Americans sometimes value a quick maximization of profits more than the expected return in the long run.
Don’t equate friendliness with business advantage
Perhaps you spent a lot of time chatting with your US-American business partner already. Perhaps you played golf the other day and a week earlier you even were invited to a BBQ at his home. Nevertheless, don’t use that friendliness as a negotiation tool. If you give the impression that you want to take advantage of the personal relationship for the sake of your company, or that you expect a favour and want to make it as easy as possible for yourself, this will backfire and hurt relations. Your US-American partner will always put business before any personal relationship. Despite their openness and friendliness, US-Americans do not as a practice only do business with friends.
Before a final decision is made, all parties want to be heard. It is common for the boss of a US-American company to solicit each team’s opinion on the upcoming deal. Just ask when you can expect a decision. US-Americans are present-oriented and want to see fast results and won’t make you wait for too long.
Letter of intent
Decisions should be put in writing, e.g. in a letter of intent. However, be aware that such documents – even contracts – can be revised later. If conditions change, US-Americans won’t hesitate to renegotiate. Subsequent orders will be negotiated on the basis of the existing agreement though.
Keep in mind that in the US, contracts are very detailed. US-Americans provide for all contingencies. Of course, you should have talked this through beforehand. In the end, only what is written down in the contract counts.