Tips for planning your first face to face meeting in China

After spending weeks or months arranging a meeting with a potential Chinese partner or investor, you are now face to face with your Chinese contact for the first time. Setting expectations for how this meeting will play out will determine how successful you will be in making signing the deal. I have just returned from one such meeting so here are the top five learning points:

  1. Formal environment

If you are meeting the CEO/President/Founder, your meeting is likely to have been arranged through an intermediary whether from China or the UK. They will have presented you and your business opportunity as one of their trusted network or ‘guanxi’ so respecting this trust is vital.

After a tour of the office or factory, you will be shown into a formal room with photos of President Xi and the company history. Large formal chairs will be arranged around the room with you given the honour of sitting alongside the business leader – however do not sit down unless guided to the appropriate seat. As this seating process goes on, it is highly recommended to make sure your translator is seated near you to allow for whisper translation  throughout the meeting.

2. Formal introduction

When your host and his entourage comes in, greet them warmly using whatever Mandarin you have available, even if it is simply “Ni hao” (“knee how” – hello). Hand over your business card which should have your Chinese translation including your given Chinese name with both hands. Receive your hosts’ card in a similar manner and keep it in your hand. If presented with multiple staff members, try and stack the cards in the order you receive them then when at your chair or desk lay them out in order – this will give you a fighting chance of remembering the role if not the name of the person you met.

Your early comments should complement your host on the impressive nature of their office/facility, the city or province they are located in and the honour of meeting them. Wiki research beforehand will help with this ‘small talk’ but it goes a long way to showing respect.

3.      Your presentation

Prepare a set of translated slides to hand over to the audience. Your meeting may last 45-60 minutes but do not feel that you must keep slide numbers to a minimum. Typical Chinese slide-packs start at 50 and go up from there and are packed with photos, graphs, text and awards. Even if you only cover 5-10 slides during the discussion, they will absorb the remaining slides at their leisure. As you present your pitch, allow time for your translator to present each point. During this process, maintain eye contact with your host and even if they express no visual interest, keep pushing on. However don’t keep the presentation just one way – do take time to ask get feedback and ask them how they would approach such a business issue in China – you are certain to be surprised by their answer

4.      Finishing the meeting

Once discussions have finished, you will want to offer your host a small gift. There is plenty of advice on the does & don’ts of gift giving but do ask your host if you can give them a small token of appreciation for their time. Have a short story as to the background of the gift and its symbolism as you hand it over. This will trigger a photo opportunity and possibly their presentation of a gift to you. Following this photo, you should ask to connect with the most relevant people at the meeting via WeChat. This is vital as without this connection, you will find it very hard to stay in touch.

5.      Meeting review

You may come away from the meeting without having a sense of how successful it went. This is where you need your local partners who arranged the meeting for you. Trust them with the feedback and respond accordingly. If further information is requested then arrange to have this sent through but do not expect a swift response – this can take weeks or even months as the proposal is considered internally and within the Chinese based network. This is where WeChat comes into play – it allows for sharing of short snippets of information, updates on your own business development and other industry relevant topics.

Conclusion

These points are just the start in developing your China business. Even if the introductions do not lead to signed business contracts, by following this approach you may find your own ‘guanxi’ being built. Your host will be proud to have met you as it shows they are operating at an international level. As such, on your return visit to the region you are likely to be received as a VIP and find other relevant introductions made to you by them.

Best of luck with your China business development and if you want to learn more secrets of doing business in China then get in touch.