This is a very common question asked by many teams we have coached in India.
If Americans love to save two things, those are time and money. To negotiate and to convince an American is to appeal to their love of saving time, saving money or both!
Also, the more you know about their business, their end user (customer), and some of the other cultural context, these factors can be used in conjunction with time and financial arguments to not only create a compelling case, but will show your business acumen.
Don’t forget to add in tidbits about your technical knowledge as well. Why a certain request can or can’t be done. Tie this to your experience on other similar projects and the pros and cons of implementing it or not implementing it.
This is why it’s so important for client facing developers to have good soft skills, communication skills and relationship building skills.
Of course this is not always an easy proposition. While one knows their work well and how to discuss particulars of their work related tasks, many may fail to truly understand how to measure their output through time or financial calculations. This is a skill, and it takes time to master. It is also a way to show initiative to your US counterparts.
After reviewing this in the sessions, many Indian executives ask, “Well, if this is common in your American culture, that means to you this comes easy. This is not as common in our Indian culture, so we have to practice. It’s not easy.”
My answer to this typically is, “That while Americans may grow up hearing this more than Indians might, it is still a learned skill for Americans to master. A lot goes into understanding these calculations, and they do not always easily roll off of one’s tongue without many years experience to back them up. What this means is that, yes, even Americans must prepare and practice these skills to perfect them. It depends on the topic of discussion, and the fact and figures always change. So, one must prepare for such meetings well in advance, studying and comparing figures to find the most convincing approach to use.”
Not only does it take a skill in understanding how and where to use these figures, but it takes a skill in small talk and getting to know one’s client or customer. The better we know someone (personally or professionally), the easier it is to find the right approach to convince them. Small talk goes along way.
To justify this argument, just think of those you work with in your office, those you work closely with in your local team (even if you are now working from home in a distributed way)… do you find it easier or more difficult to handle challenging conversations with those you know better locally? Why is that? What do you know about them that you may or may not know about your US counterpart? How can you try to fill in those gaps?
Interestingly enough, some Indian executives may also consider the tips in this article a form of small talk because it’s not directly talking about the task at hand. Rather than talking about getting it done, and sticking to the nuts and bolts of the topic, convincing and negotiating by using figures may not be considered to be directly talking about the matter at hand. Unlike “normal” small talk which has nothing to do with work, this kind of small talk does have to do with work, and it takes time to prepare for.
Dr. John Sullivan in the article, Talking Strategically: The 7 Things You Must Master to Succeed, shares this and six other tips in how to convince and negotiate effectively: