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Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports

You are here: Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports >Doing business abroad > North America



North America


North America is a large continent incorporating three large countries, namely the USA, Canada and Mexico. This region has a population of over 400 million people. Although they are closely entwined, these three countries are very different. Mexico has more of a Latino culture, with the US and Canda having a more Western culture. While to the outsider, the US and Canada are somewhat similar they see themselves vehemently different! In reality, this is a region that consists of many different cultural group and is really a 'melting pot' of cultures. The size and demographic make up of the region makes it difficult to give a simplistic overview of its culture. Although English is the lingua franca, Spanish is widely spoken especially in the Southern States and in Mexico. To understand the Mexican culture, you would be advised to read the section on Latin America.

Cinema, Television, and lately the Internet, have begun to play a role in shaping the evolving North American culture. This of necessity leads to a convergence of culture and regional differences are perhaps not as pronounced as they were in the past. People from this region are brought up with a 'can do' attitude and the 'American Dream' is available to all. Social and business prominence, for example, depends a great deal on education, professional accomplishments, and wealth.

Arabs traditionally view time as a continuous flow of events in which past, present and future, rather than being well-defined and separate, tend to blend in with one another. They do not view human activities as being controllable by man through advance planning or clock-watching. Rather, events are determined by the will of Allah (Arabic for God). Thus, Arab businessmen are frequently late for appointments. It is ironic, however, that visitors to the Middle East are expected to be on time for appointments as a sign of respect.


North Americans use the telephone in all circumstances. Normally, they use the telephone to ask simple questions or to set up appointments for more detailed discussions. However, detailed business discussion can take place over the telephone, they would even use conference facilities and video conferencing is becoming common. Because the Internet (incorporating Skype) is so cheap and commonplace, it is now replacing other means of communication including the telex, fax and even the telephone. One should however not ignore the importance of the face to face meeting especially in the Southern and Mid-Western States, as well as in Canada.

After greeting and shaking hands with foreign guests and after business cards have been exchanged, a North American host normally arranges for coffee to be served. You may be asked to accompany the executive to the coffee machine where you will serve yourself. In some cases, neither milk nor sugar will be offered and it may be served in a polystyrene cup. Business will be discussed immediately. In the Southern States and Canada, the pace is a little slower and pleasantries may be exchanged - but these will not last too long. During discussions, direct eye contact is important - especially during greetings and good-byes.

Freedom of religion is important in this region and, while the majority of North Americans call themselves Christians, there is a general tolerance of others beliefs, altough recent political developments following the 9/11 attacks have unfortunately resulted in some tensions between those of the Muslim belief and other religious groups. Ethics are high and most North Americans do not tolerate corruption or bribery and have stiff penalties for infringing these rules.

Normally, the North American speaking distance is similar to here in South Africa, however the speaking distance in Mexico is very close, and touching is an important form of communication in that it is a sign of sincerity and trust.

Being punctual for appointments is a critical, except perhaps in Mexico where time-keeping is less strict. Not only should you arrive on time, but also you must be thoroughly prepared. If you have been allotted a certain amount of time for the presentation or meeting this must not be exceeded. A follow up meeting would be more appropriate. the presentation should cover all the relevant aspects of the company, product or service and offering.

Rank and status are not as important in a typical North American firm as they would be in a European or Asian business. Because of this, you should identify the decision-maker as soon as possible. On the one hand, a Vice President may have little authority to make a deal while an assistant manager may have the delegated authority to negotiate and sign a contract.

Any technical or promotional literature should be standard American letter-sized paper i.e. 8,5 by 11 inches. It should have three holes punched as opposed to two or four typically used in South Africa. Extensive use should be made of colour and graphics. Plenty of business cards should be available. Cards should be printed on standard 200-gram bond. They should be approximately 9cm by 5cm. Cards smaller or larger than this are not suitable for American card filing systems and are therefore easily lost.

To find out more about individual countries in the USA and Canada, please try CountryHelp:


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Step 12: more information

Step12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
      The art of negotiating in export markets
      Quoting for exports
      Doing business abroad
            .Latin America
            .Middle East
            .Far East

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More information on Step 12
Learning to export...
The export process in 21 easy steps
Step 1: Considering exporting
Step 2:Current business viability
Step 3:Export readiness
Step 4:Broad mission statement and initial budget
Step 5:Confirming management's commitment to exports
Step 6: Undertaking an initial SWOT analysis of the firm
Step 7:Selecting and researching potential countries abroad
Step 8: Preparing and implementing your export plan
Step 9: Obtaining financing for your exports
Step 10: Managing your export risk
Step 11: Promoting the firm and its products abroad
Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
Step 13: Revising your export costings and price
Step 14: Obtaining the export order
Step 15: Producing the goods
Step 16: Handling the export logistics
Step 17: Export documentation
Step 18: Providing follow-up support
Step 19: Getting paid
Step 20: Reviewing and improving the export process
Step 21: Export Management
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