As I have written before, I have many business partners in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, and friends and colleagues wanting to invest in that region frequently ask me for advice.
During the last few days I have been in touch with a friend who will be having a business meeting in Mexico City next week. First he asked me advice about the best options to rent a car, because after the meeting he plans to drive to Teotihuacan.
He could just have searched for “arrendamiento en Mexico” (rental companies in Mexico) and got plenty of results. But he preferred to trust on my experience, so I sent him the most accurate list that I was able to prepare.
Some days after I sent him the information, he called me on the phone to thank me. During the conversation he also mentioned his worries; he has never visited Mexico City and was a little concerned about security and logistics. But his main concern was the meeting itself.
Throughout his successful career as a businessman, he has learned that cultural aspects can be truly decisive when doing business. An interesting and intelligent proposal can be turned out due to an unappropriated speech or showing wrong manners, not because one is rude or uneducated, but because one doesn’t know everything about what is polite or not in a foreign country.
Since my friend has never been in Mexico, neither as a tourist nor as a businessman, he doesn’t know what may be wrong or improper, when it comes to meet and try to convince a potential partner. Naturally, he is familiar with the common beliefs about Mexicans, and Latin Americas General, being kind, warm and friendly. But, does that apply to business.
I told him that, without realizing it completely, he had just found the key to a successful meeting. Kindness and confidence are two of the most appreciated qualities among the Mexican business environment. First you show a kind and respectful attitude and then you start winning your partner’s confidence.
The following are some of the first steps to show kindness and gain confidence:
- During the first meeting give a firm handshake, along with a “Mucho gusto” (pleased to meet you). Normally, you will be introduced to your potential clients or partners by their last names and their title or degree, if that’s the case (“licenciado”, “maestro”, “doctor”). Mentioning those titles is really important, especially in written communication.
- You should be prepared to talk about yourself, as well as about your company. It is true that people prefer closeness and familiarity and the business proposal is as important as the personal background.
- Although the formal proposal is commonly presented during an office meeting, there may be a meal afterwards, especially when dealing with foreign partners. That meal is just as important as the previous meeting, because it gives the perfect environment for confidence to develop.
Mexicans are proud about their culture and the beauty of the country. There’s a high chance that your host will invite you to a cultural event or a short tour. You definitely have to accept and even if such an invitation is not presented, you should comment about your interest on the cultural, touristic or historical attractions of the country.