Business Negotiation Etiquette

Updated February 21, 2017

If you work in a field in which you have to negotiate often, it's very important that you know the etiquette associated with negotiating, such as how to speak to a potential client and how to behave when the negotiation process is prolonged. These courtesies will help you to avoid awkward situations and make a positive first impression.


Before the negotiations officially begin, it is essential that you present yourself as friendly and polite to give the impression of trustworthiness. The most common form of greeting in the corporate world is the handshake. However, if you are in countries such as France or Brazil, kisses on the cheek are the norm. If you are in the Middle East, a nod of acknowledgement may be best when greeting someone of the opposite sex. Learn the culture of the people you will be negotiating with. This is a sign of respect and an indication of how you will behave during the business process.

Small Talk

It is also common for some professionals to engage in small talk before the negotiations begin and to have short conversations after negotiations have ended for the day. This gives everyone time to become more comfortable with one another and is the gateway to building a lasting business relationship. However, in some countries such as Finland and Germany, small talk is not part of business culture, and meetings start precisely on time. After negotiations, a German or Finnish professional may host a dinner or a trip to the sauna for casual conversation. In places such as Mexico and Saudi Arabia, small talk is expected, but it's best to know which subjects are off-limits. For instance, it is not proper etiquette to discuss the poverty in the country with Mexican professionals, and one should not inquire about the well-being of a female family member in Saudi Arabia.


If you will be presenting information that is meant to sway a client in a certain direction in a business deal, be sure that your presentation is concise, fact-based and easy to follow. While some companies depend more on a favourable relationship when making a final decision in a negotiation, it is always proper etiquette for you to have facts and figures ready to present to each meeting participant. Being thoroughly prepared for the presentation and ready to answer any questions is likely to make new clients more at ease when it comes to doing business with you.

Deciding on Strategy

When you are deciding which negotiation strategy to use, considering the negotiation etiquette of the professionals you are working with is imperative. For example, in the U.S., it is appropriate to use "hard selling" or persuasion to get a businessperson to side with you in the negotiation process. However, in countries like Australia this is inappropriate and could result in the end of a potentially positive business relationship. In the Middle East and parts of Africa, bargaining is common and expected--both sides make offers on an item or service until a satisfactory price is reached. In some cases, it is best to simply state the facts regarding your stance in the negotiation, to be honest about your intentions and to respectfully listen to all the opinions presented at the meeting.

Waiting for a Decision

Once all the information has been presented and it's time to come to a decision, using proper etiquette to respect this part of the process will help to secure the business deal. In many companies, the final negotiation decision is made from the top down, meaning that executives will likely have additional meetings to determine the negotiation outcome. Being patient and accommodating during this time shows that you respect the process and are not simply focused on getting "your way." Following up with the negotiation proceedings in the appropriate way, such as sending a short e-mail, will show that you are genuinely interested but don't want to seem too pushy.

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About the Author

Tamiya King has been writing for over a decade, particularly in the areas of poetry and short stories. She also has extensive experience writing SEO and alternative health articles, and has written published interviews and other pieces for the "Atlanta Tribune" and Jolt Marketing. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts in English and is currently pursuing higher education to become a creative writing professor.