Many things have been said about Russian businesses or how to conduct business in Russia, but sometimes you need some guidelines on how to run a successful business meeting with Russians. As we know, cultures are different, and some things that are normal in your country might not be the same in other countries.
Nowadays in Russia, as opposed to the old business-orientated class, Russians tend to take a relaxed attitude when getting things done (e.g. expect business appointments to probably start one or even two hours late).
Planning a meeting
If you want to plan a meeting in Russia or with your Russians counterparts, you should start doing it as far in advance as possible. If you want to meet with government officials, then you should start planning it several weeks (or even months) beforehand. Always confirm your meetings before you arrival (one or two days before) and I do not recommend scheduling a meeting in the month of May since it is considered as is it considered as a ‘holiday period’.
Russians always expect to meet with someone of similar position or rank and someone who can make decisions. Remember that the main goal for the first meeting is to build a trustful relationship. You should always be punctual; even if your Russian counterparts will probably be late. Remember to always treat them as your equal and not in a condescend way.
During a meeting
In the first meeting, your counterparts will try to discover more about you and assess if you are a good business partner for them or not. Therefore, you should ‘twist their arm’ about why your company is a better choice than your competitors. Before you get down to business, there will usually be a small talk, as Russians don’t like people who are “all business” oriented.
The Russians expect a detailed presentation about the status and history of the subject being presented, so you should always allow yourself to have plenty of time for each appointment. There is no need to rush, because as s you already know, meetings can start late and may run overtime.
In general, Russians tend to spend more time discussing problems than actually looking for a solution for said problems. Expect that there will be side interruptions; they can start discussing topics that are not necessarily related to main subject. Make sure not to touch sensitive topics as that may embarrass your Russian counterparts, and they do not like to ‘lose face’ during a meeting.
After the meeting
At the end of the meeting, you will be asked to sign a “protocol”, which is a summary of what was discussed. But it is very possible that there will be no action plan at all, so don’t be surprised if that happens. If they ask you to do a favor for them, this is an indication that they trust you, so do not consider this is a request for a bribe or something. You should also pay attention to the policy of your company and to both the laws of your country and Russia, when considering providing this favor to your Russian counterpart.
To sum up, keep in mind that Russians prefer to meet with people of similar positions and rank and that they do not believe in ‘win-win’ scenarios. If you have some materials to present, they should be both in Russian and English and do not use ‘high-pressure’ sales tactics, as they will not help your position when negotiating in Russia.
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