Negotiating in Spain

Written by Ruben Hesselink September 2012. Posted in Int. Skills, Negotiations

For people who don’t know the Spanish well, negotiating with them can be tough. They may use particular Spanish tactics which can surprise you or even make you not know what to do next.
Luckily, however, there are some ways to make your negotiations in Spain successful.

Before you start negotiating, you’ll need to know about the Spanish approach and their customs. For instance, Spanish people are relaxed and relationship-building people. They also use a more indirect way of communication. That means you have to take time for them and show respect and interest. It’s important that your Spanish counterpart likes you, so small talk is of the essence before starting. But there are more things you should know before you start, for instance that the Spanish culture promotes a win-win approach. Also before you start negotiating, make sure you have approached the right person. Spanish people expect to deal with someone of similar rank.

When the negotiating starts, expect it to go very slow. Spanish people don’t like to hurry and they dislike people who do. They want to get to know you and they expect you to want to know them. This relationship building takes time and so does the rest of the negotiating.

Spanish people use various tactics to make the negotiating successful for them. The focus is always on the bigger picture. The Spanish love to bargain. This is something you will see a lot during a negotiation. In some countries, bargaining can be experienced as rude. Don’t take it personally if your Spanish counterpart suddenly wants 40% of the price off. It’s just part of their negotiation game. This creates chances for you as a negotiator as well. Because of their love for bargaining, they will like it if you do it too during a negotiation.

Also you have to be able to stand pressure if you want to make the negotiating successful. Don’t sweat when your Spanish counterpart says: this is my final offer. Final offers may come out more than once and are rarely ‘final’. If you want to reject an offer, it’s important to do it indirectly. Silence can be an effective way to reject an offer in place of a hard ‘no’. Don’t agree too fast to their offers either.

Because of the relaxed attitude of the Spanish, they will avoid aggressive or adversarial techniques.
The Spanish can be threatening and give warnings during a negotiation but they will always do it subtly. They will never walk out angrily, because that is seen as a personal insult. Remember, the relationship is very important. If you do want to walk out or ‘threaten’ them yourself, that can be an effective tactic. However, it will only work if you strongly emphasize the positive relationship you have with them.

The importance of the relationship you have to build with your Spanish counterpart can work out to your advantage while negotiating, but only if you play your cards well during the negotiation. It’s very effective to use emotional techniques. For example bargaining, attempting to make your Spanish counterpart to feel guilty or appealing to personal relationships. What’s important is that you don’t hurt your counterpart’s pride. If the Spanish like you, they will be more likely to give in when you are making a compromise with them.

You might even say that a good relationship is the key to successful negotiating in Spain. Spanish people will always look for a win-win situation with compromises. The focus is always on the bigger picture.
Avoid aggressive or adversarial techniques. It’s better to use the relationship you’ve build to make the negotiating a success. Bargain with the Spanish, don’t hurt their pride and they will like to do business with you. Take your time for the negotiation and be very patient. Because if you do, the negotiation with the Spanish will be a success.