Initial business contact with US-Americans

There are several ways of doing so. Keep in mind that for US-Americans time is money and they find it difficult to deal with things that seem “strange” to them.

As a first step send an e-mail in which you explain your offer or your request in a nutshell. Make sure you indicate your potential business partner’s benefit clearly.

After that call him or her. Take the time difference into account. Ask your business partner if it is a good time to talk and present the benefit of your idea concisely. Prepare yourself well for the conversation. Speaking English with an accent is no problem for US-Americans. It is more important to phrase your sentences short and clearly and to avoid wordy explanations. Keep it simple!

If your business partner is interested in your idea he will say so explicitly. Suggest a visit. Personal contact is often the most profitable.

Meeting business partners at an exhibition

In case you are in the USA as an exhibitor, make sure you present your products in an appealing way. Have small creative giveaways ready that provide an indication for your product or your service in order to attract visitors to your booth.

Approach visitors directly! Use small talk: “Hi! How are you?” Visitors who approach your booth do not expect you to shake hands. When talking to customers use the polite form of address “Madam” or “Sir”. Only after you have introduced yourself, it is common to address your dialogue partner with his first name.

Emphasize the advantages

Never forget, even in a personal conversation US-Americans think in terms of time is money. Emphasize the advantages of working with you and your company as well as the benefits of your product. In any case make sure you hand over your business card as well as some information leaflets at the end of the conversation.

Invite for a meal

You can take the opportunity to invite potential customers or partners for a meal. Business breakfast, business lunch (lunch and learn), business dinner – anything is possible. The restaurant you choose needs to be appropriate but not too expensive. You can get in touch with your contact’s office in advance to find out which cuisine he prefers. That shows that you have given some thought to the appointment. Make sure you pay the bill.

Maintaining contact

Of course you want to stay in touch with your new business partners. Send them a message when you get back home from your USA visit. Give them your thanks for the interesting conversations back in the US. Call your contacts, however, not simply to get in touch. Americans won’t understand this. It is better to tell them some news or to provide them with another offer. Small gifts, a book tip or a link to a topic that has to do with your business relationship or that is of interest to your business partners, are always appreciated. Not too much, but a small something every now and then, will strengthen the relationship.

Separate business and private life

Americans have a short time orientation and mainly pursue business interests. However, they also prefer to do business with people they know a little bit. Maintaining your relationship is therefore always important in business life.

You are well advised to strictly separate business from private matters in the USA. In any case you want to make sure you don’t give the impression that you are abusing a good personal relationship for doing business.

Don’t expect an American business partner to value your personal contact more than a business decision that is important to him and his company. In terms of negotiations, he will be just as focused on his goals even though you might have played golf together the day before. Don’t try to include your good personal relationship into decisions or negotiations. That will immediately evoke a bad reputation.

Of course it is possible to create a network by choosing relationships strategically; but you never want to give the impression that you are expecting to be treated better than others.

Johanna Marius

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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