The one overarching point to consider before doing business in Turkey is that business is personal. The key to any good business venture relies heavily upon a good personal relationship. Although facts, figures and projected profit margins do go some way towards getting contracts signed and deals done, the relationship is crucial. Your Turkish counterpart will need to have trust in you, both as a person and a professional, and also like you on a personal level.
This combination spells a long-term association. Such relationships are built through spending time together, either over long meals or socialising. Chatting over shared interests helps build rapport and find common ground. Revealing personal information and showing an interest in your counterpart’s life and family is also important. The following presents some points you may consider when visiting Turkey for business and identifies interesting differences between Turkish and Western business culture.
Business meetings are the time to present your company proposal and to talk about business seriously. But don’t forget the initial pleasantries, as people normally exchange a few friendly words first before talking about business. It is acceptable in this regard to ask about family, talk about football and other sports and hobbies. In Turkey, English is the most common foreign language, so most businesspeople speak English. In Turkey, it is important to shake hands firmly at the start of an introduction and a business meeting.
In Turkish business practice it is respectful to address a Turkish professional by his or her occupational title alone, should they have one, e.g. “Doctor” or “Lawyer”. However, Turks are generally informal with names and when meeting someone for the first time they tend to address people by “Mr” or “Mrs” followed by their first name. It is good to know that in some cases Turkish business people may appreciate their language by using the words Bey and Hanim to address a man and a woman, respectively, instead of Mr and Mrs.
Business cards should be exchanged. Although there is no formal exchange ritual, you are advised to present your card with both hands and, if possible, have one side of your card translated into Turkish. Offer your business card to everyone you meet, especially to those with whom you wish to establish a business relationship. Every visitor will immediately be offered coffee or tea; it is impolite to refuse, but you can ask for water. Coffee is served without sugar or with some sugar. Tea comes with one or two lumps on the side.
After small talk, start the meeting and discussion by introducing yourself and your business. In the meeting, it’s better if you have both English and Turkish documents about your business. An oral discussion can be supported by visual communicators like drawings, graphs, statistics etc. as Turkish people would enjoy the meeting both orally and visually. When negotiating on financial terms be patient because it may take some time to agree on a point mutually.
In Turkey the currency is Turkish lira, (TL) but dollars and euros are currencies commonly used when doing business. If negotiating, it may not always be necessary to focus on financial benefits. It is just as useful to point to areas such as prestige, influence, honour, respect and other non-monetary incentives. Reach the decision-maker at the top, at least at the first meeting or on first contact. Send your top person to meet with their top person. This would be indicative of how much you value your prospective business in Turkey.
Food lovers will be glad to know that dining in restaurants is part-and-parcel of Turkish business culture. You will inevitably be invited to dine out and it would be impolite not to accept. The meal is a time for relaxing, engaging in some good conversation, getting away from business and firming up that relationship. In general practice, the entire meal is not ordered at once. One course is ordered at a time and after finishing it, the next is ordered. Expect many “starter” courses or “mezzes” before the main dish arrives.
The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is alien. You may offer to pay, which will be seen as polite, but it is unlikely you will be allowed to do so. The best policy is to graciously thank the host and then a few days later invite them to dinner at a restaurant of your choice. If you do so it may be a good idea to have a quiet word with the restaurant manager to inform them that under no circumstances are they to accept payment from your guests.
The Turkish take the concept of being host very seriously. Companies doing business in Turkey are often treated to a wide range of assistance, including hotels, transport, meals and evening entertainment. Turkish companies can often lean on an extensive network of relationships to provide these without incurring direct costs, or at a substantial discount. When visiting their partner’s country, they expect the same treatment. So be prepared for that.
Prior to entering negotiations in Turkey, you should know your bottom-line figure. You will then need to add a percentage to this figure, making the price seemingly expensive. This is done as concessions are expected: they show compromise and a willingness to put the relationship first. When conceding on figures, work slowly towards your bottom-line figure through meaningful concessions – you present this as a decision made out of respect and liking for your counterpart.
Try to concede only once you have gained agreement on a reciprocal concession on a separate or related issue. It is not advisable to use deadlines or pressure tactics, as the Turks may use this to their advantage and reverse the tactic by threatening to cancel agreements or end negotiations. Be patient. The first president and founder of the modern Republic, Kemal Ataturk, is revered and you should be careful not to say anything about him which might be construed as critical. This information is provided by Kwintessential website.
Turks say “yes” by nodding their head forward and down and say “no” by nodding their head up and back while lifting their eyebrows. Wagging your head from side to side doesn’t mean “no” in Turkish, it means “I don’t understand”. Talk about family, food and sports; they are very suitable icebreakers. The exchanging of gifts is not a predominant feature of Turkish business culture. However, if a gift is given it will be gratefully accepted. However, don’t offer gifts that are too lavish or personal.