Top 9 International Business Negotiation Strategies & Tips

In this post, I am going to talk about a few unique international business negotiation strategies & ideas.

International business negotiations aren’t easy. Most marketers or business owners struggle to close international deals. That’s because of the following reasons:

  • Geographical gap
  • Cross-cultural differences
  • Difference in purchase power
  • Lack of trust & confidence

I also have been through that. With years of struggle & experience, I have found a few tactics that work like magic to win those lucrative international contracts.

Here I will be spilling all my secrets. Try them & you will see a difference.

If you are a seller, you will do more business. And, on the other hand, if you are a  buyer, you should get the best price & quality by following these tips.


1. Start With A Cultural Greeting

Straight away jumping to business isn’t a great idea. Therefore, start by greeting your client or prospect in his or her local way. That will set a friendly stage for the meeting.

It’s very important to make the client comfortable right from the start of the meeting. This strategy exactly does that.

Example: If you are meeting a Japanese client in person then greet him or her by saying “Konnichiwa” (Good day!). Or, if you are meeting over the phone then say “Moshi Moshi” (Hello!).

Of course, to execute this strategy, you require to acquaint yourself with the client’s culture. You can use websites like Commisceo Global to learn about the cultures of different countries.

You can add more strength to this strategy by:

  • Smiling
  • Having friendly body language
  • Briefly talking about non-business stuff (like political events)
  • Cracking a mild joke

To win business negotiations, it’s important to have a personal rapport first. Once, that rapport is set, a comfort zone is created & negotiation becomes easy.

You may also use this strategy while negotiating over email. Start the email with a cultural greeting & then talk business.

A word of caution here: Don’t overuse this strategy. Or else, the client may feel that you are not being authentic or original.

2. Pause Briefly Before You Speak

A ‘pause’ is more than just a pause. If used effectively, it can be a lethal weapon of business negotiation.

A brief pause signals to your seller that you are still evaluating the proposal & aren’t 100% convinced. That will pull the seller party to the back-foot & open the room for further negotiation.

Example: Imagine you being an importer of garments & are negotiating with a Chinese factory or seller on price. Now, as soon as the seller quotes a price, pause for a few seconds. Do not respond outright. That simple pause will create a dilemma in the mind of the seller (as to whether you liked the offer). Use that dilemma to negotiate further & get the best price.

This strategy is the simplest of all (in this list). It’s easy & quick to implement. And, the best part is that it works wonders.

So, what is an ideal duration of such a pause?. There is no hard or fast rule. A 5 second pause should work in most cases.

Of course, this strategy works best when negotiating over phone or in person. But, you can still use this pause formula when negotiating over email or text. How?. Simply reply after sometime (may be after a day or two of receiving the email or text).

The essence of this strategy is to increase your negotiation power & psychologically putting the seller on the back-foot.

3. Throw Up Alternate Options

Negotiation is a game of options, compromises & alternatives.

Therefore, to excel at negotiation, you need to come prepared with a handful of options. As & when required during the negotiation process, pitch these options to the client or seller.

Example: Imagine you run a social media marketing agency.  You have got an international prospect who is interested in acquiring social media marketing services from your agency. As expected, he or she asks for a price quote. Wait! Simply don’t just send a proposal stating that you charge $ 1,000 per month for such services. Instead, include the following alternative options or packages:

  • Add website design service at just an additional $100
  • Pay for the first six month in advance & get one month of service free of cost
  • Switch to recurring billing & get 10% instant discount

Trust me, this strategy works like a charm. Why?. Because by giving alternate options, you have created an extra space for further negotiation. So, even if the client is dissatisfied with the $ 1,000 price tag, he will be tempted by the aforesaid options.

These alternate options act as a cushion & ensure that the negotiation doesn’t break. And, as long as the negotiation is ON, you have a chance!

How many times have your prospects not responded to your price proposals?. Well, may be numerous times. Now, apply this strategy & tweak your proposal. I bet you will be surprised by the result (thank me later).

This strategy will also work well if you are dealing with physical products. Instead of direct pricing, why not give bulk or tiered pricing structure to your prospective customer?.

4. Sound & Act Like An Expert

You will win at negotiation only when the prospect trusts you. And, prospects trust experts, the real subject-matter experts.

Example: If you are real estate agent showing your portfolio to an international prospect, then don’t just talk about the usual ‘sales-man’ stuff like price etc. Instead, try talking about a few expert stuff like investment ROI, location advantage, passive rentals or cash flow etc.

If you talk about technical stuff, your client will immediately draw a conclusion like: “Hmmm..Seems like this guy knows his stuff well.”. And that impression will be enough to help you nail the negotiation.

Of course, to implement this strategy, you need to learn & get acquainted to your industry well.

5. Sell Your Vision

This strategy requires you to sell your vision or future to the seller.

Selling the vision will make the seller believe something like: “Hmm.. Let me loose in this deal. Once this client grows or becomes big, I will eventually be under an advantage”.

Example: Imagine you are a new electronics brand & are looking for a contract manufacturer. At the start, of course, you won’t be having a huge volume to order. Therefore, chances are there that no big manufacturer will be interested to work with you. In that scenario, you could use this strategy to negotiate with the big manufacturers. Simply sell your vision & convince them to manufacture for you.

Following are the various ways you can use this strategy. Talk about:

  • Expansion plans
  • Product innovation & market potential
  • Team credentials & experience
  • Long-term goals etc.

A word of caution: Don’t oversell your vision or else you may not sound authentic. Free, frank & authentic discussions are a must for a fruitful negotiation.

6. Don’t Sound Desperate Or Excited

The easiest way to loose points in negotation is to sound like a desperate client or seller.

Even if the offer is great, control your nerves. Or even if the seller or client is reputed & you are excited to work with her, don’t show up the excitement.

Take your time, control your tone & continue to negotitiate as if you didn’t like the offer.

Example: You are into manufacturing of electronic products & looking for an overseas supplier of a particular kind of wires. To your surprise, one of the prospective suppliers quoted low. Now, don’t jump & accept the offer outset. Negotiate further down & inquire about quality, timing, contract etc. That may help you further lower the price or increase the quality with the same price.

The essence of the strategy is perfection. There is nothing called “Best Offer”. You can always pull down further & get even better price or quality.

7. Compare With Equivalents

This strategy specially works great for service sector. All you need to do here is to compare your service with one of your own equivalent services.

Sounds strange?. Yes, I know. Let me then explain with an example.

Example: Imagine you are a freelancer providing web coding services to international clients. One of the prospects approached for a custom consulting project. You offer to do the same for $100 per hour. The client doesn’t seem convinced & seems to feel that you are charging a bit high. Now, don’t go ahead & lower your consulting fee. Instead, make the client convinced by saying “Look, I am a renowned web developer with years of experience. To speak at a seminar or event, I generally charge $1000 per hour. Here, I will be charging only $100 & will exclusively be working for you. Therefore, I think it’s a fair deal.”

This works because people are accustomed to comparisions. And, they make crucial decisions only after comparing & analyzing similar stuff.

Pitching an offer in isolation may not move a prospect. But, when you pitch the same offer comparing with an equivalent (& not so favorable) offer then it works.

If you have noticed then this strategy is also used by top e-commerce firms like Amazon. The deals that you get there are usually compared with an earlier price. That makes the customers think “Hmm.. I should buy this right away since it’s so cheap”

8. Ask Questions

At the end of the day, negotiation is nothing but a two-way communication to arrive at a win-win ‘deal’.

So, to win at negotiation, you should fine tune your communication skills. While this post isn’t about this communication, I can give a tip that has helped me in many international negotiations.

Ask relevant questions.

That’s it. During the negotiation, ask relevant questions to your prospective client or seller. Why?. Because questions help to draw attention, remove doubts & aid in more transparent discussions.

Example: Imagine you are an interior designer. Now, during discussion with an international client, ask as many relevant questions as possible like:

  • Scope of work
  • Materials to be used
  • Number of visits required etc.

These aforesaid questions will help in drawing attention of your prospect & will also help you to quote a reasonable price. The more reasonable the price, more is the chance of closing the deal.

Therefore, ask relevant questions at regular intervals. I feel sad when I find sellers directly start sending price quotes to their prospects. That way, the prospect will feel that all you care about is the money.

Asking questions will also make the prospect feel that you are a subject expert & know your stuff well. That feeling will help build trust. And, trust is the best weapon to seal a deal.

9. Keep Buffer Margin

This strategy requires that you alwayshave  a buffer margin on your price for negotiation fluctuations.

It’s more of like a common sense.

Example: If your consulting fees per hour is $100 then try quoting $110. That way you have a buffer of $10. If the client negotiates, then bring down the price to $100. Yes, you won’t be losing anything.

Though this is a common-sense strategy, most service providers miss out on this point. Revealing outright a fixed fee or price on your website is not always a right move.

Remember, the buffer should not be too aggressive or else it will break the deal.


I know it’s not easy to win international business contracts. I have been there & know the pain. You got to be top-notch with your negotiation moves.

But with aforesaid strategies & tips, you can win at any level of a business negotiation.

Of course, you can’t implement all these strategies at one go. Go for one at a time & keep improving. Negotiation is an art & thus requires practice.

Do yourself a favour. Bookmark this post & refer to it before you go for a business negotiation meeting.

As you implement these ideas again & again, they will sink in your brain. Thereafter, you won’t need to refer back to this post.

Makes sense?. Cool!

Do negotiate. Do internationally. Do more business.

Related: How To Deal With A Difficult Customer