When dealing with business people in Belgium, you should be punctual for the meetings, because Belgium people do not like to have their time wasted. Typically they start working at 8:30 am and finishing at 5:30 pm. It is not recommended to schedule a meeting in the morning, it is always better to do it in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
In Belgium it is a good idea to make an appointment at least a few days in advance and as soon as the timing has been agreed you do not need to check or reconfirm. If later you have some unforeseen issues or priorities to take care of, call them and explain the situation. Certainly your Belgian partner will understand you, and propose an alternative arrangement.
You need to consider following steps before proceeding with your meetings in Belgium.
1 Before the meeting
Belgians are pragmatic and well-organized and they appreciate receiving an agenda beforehand in order to know what topics will be discussed during the meeting. This agenda should be distributed to everyone attending the meeting. If you are not sure about your language skills, ensure that you will have an interpreter present during the negotiations. You should also arrange for all the documents to be translated into the language required. As it was said above, punctuality is very important, arrive at least 5 or 10 minutes before the meeting.
2 During the meeting
The Belgium negotiation style, both Flemish and Walloon, is quite the opposite of the Dutch. They not always stick to the principles or established rules, although they also have their own principles. The ‘Belgian way’ is more exploratory, flexible and relationship-orientated. But keep in mind that the Flemish is more direct in nature.
Overall, Belgians are very polite and punctual and therefore you should also strive to be the same. However if you experience some delays, make sure to call them ahead and let them know. Once you are there, business cards are usually exchanged, particularly if the intervening parties have not met before. During the meeting with Flemish, you will find yourself in the negotiation process with a group of people and everyone will have their own input. However, in a ‘Walloon meeting’, only the leader will negotiate and the rest of the group will remain quiet. If you have a sales pitch, back it up with strong arguments and use appropriate language for the audience. Make sure you will not have anything interrupting your pitch (e.g. mobile phones and etc…).
3 After the meeting
When the meeting is finished, try not to leave the room as fast as possible, and spend some time by talking around what has been discussed and agreed.
It is recommended to send a written record of the decisions made at the meeting. Deadlines should be explicitly defined, and if the delivery of a product or service is included, then the details and prices should also be confirmed. It is also important to give a safe and realistic delivery date and it is always better to ask for a written confirmation of acceptance.
As an additional, tip if you quickly follow-up with actions the decision agreed at the meeting, your Belgian colleagues will be impressed. Good luck with your meetings with Belgians!
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