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Success in China: Time to Getting Personal with Your Chinese Business Partners

A good friend who has been having remarkable success in China brought up an interesting topic at dinner the other night. Turns out that – as he’s become closer to some of his Chinese associates – they laughingly tell him (over meals occasionally featuring bugs, beaks and other mysteries to the Western palate) how many Western sales people and business execs spend a great deal of energy to “get the meeting” with Chinese counterparts, then blow any deal by leaving it at that.

Whether for partnerships, sales, distribution deals or other ventures, the effort goes in up front. Then they blow it. Why? For many Westerners, “a meeting” is the key. Yet for many Chinese, business relationships are built on personal interactions outside of business as well. Not to say that relationships are it – in fact, quality product or service, solid reputation and other issues are no less important to Chinese buyers than any others – but the trust that only a relationship can help drive is critical to successfully doing business in China.

Reviewing a survey of Chinese business buyers perceptions of Western business, it’s no surprise that Chinese buyers are particularly interested in working with companies – and the people who represent those companies – that see beyond business relationships and show interest in their personal lives of their Chinese business partners.

Bottom line, if you get the meeting then go for it. But don’t stop there. Not only are relationships built away from the office, but business often gets done as well. Understand that for your Chinese business partners, the quality of the relationship can be viewed in direct correlation to the way that relationships have a personal impact on the people in question.

So don’t be surprised – or shy – if your soup appears to wink at you. Just wink back, and grab another whiskey…

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