Business between the West and the Middle East has an illustrious history. The obstacles are mainly miscommunication and the lack of understanding of each other’s culture.
The markets of the Middle East and North Africa have an abundance of wealth. And so, the more you know about the region, the better.
Learn about their culture through communication with natives. Also, read up as much as you can to limit culture shock. There are few invaluable resources like Will Ward in the search for useful information.
The Middle East is mostly Muslim, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. There is as much diversity in culture as there is in Europe.
Don’t go in there with stereotypes that westerners know. At the same time, it’s wise not to offend any aspect of their religion. After all, you don’t want to lose out on golden opportunities over petty differences.
Muslims are good people who follow Islam, and Islam promotes honorable business. Fairness and firm commitment will land you life-long partners in business. Read on to know the six points you must know before doing business in the Middle East.
Acknowledge The Diversity of Culture
The West sees media that portrays the Middle East as a big desert with lots of camels. But that is not even close to what the real story is.
The Grand body has 20 countries that are each unique culturally with histories that intertwine. You go from Morocco to Yemen on the map to trace the span of the region.
There are 357 million people there, and that is like 6 percent of the entire world’s population.
So, it is quite hard to generalize such a great mass of people.
The Middle East and North Africa is also called MENA and is economically diverse. The area has a lot of countries that are rich in oil. However, other countries have a scarcity of resources.
Your prospects in doing well depend on what you are selling. You need to figure out if your service or product has relevance in the market. In other words, know if there is a need.
If you do have a good product or service, find a target audience for it. For that, you need to collect intelligence.
Get A Guide
You need to get yourself a professional guide before you start doing business in MENA. Why? Well, General Business practices are different there. This means what you do in the West will not work in MENA. This is especially true in Morocco or Egypt.
If you venture all by yourself, you will experience culture shock, and you might even lose potential clients.
Imagine someone being ignorant and rude to you. Would you do business with that person? That is how a lot of western businessmen seem to Middle Easterns.
A professional guide will help you understand the culture. As a result, you will be literate in social norms and values.
The understanding of foreign culture helps out in making contacts and networking. The next thing you need the guide to explain to you is the nature of the target market.
You need to know how to advertise and present your product and service. It has to be alluring but also culturally acceptable.
Know The Host Country
The Middle East is diverse, just like business etiquette. If you are doing business with a country, try your best to know your host.
You will learn a lot by just walking around on the streets. See how they talk to one another, how they dress, and their surroundings. Also, pay attention to their media.
Engage in communication with as many people as possible and try to learn the language as fast as possible. However, if you are not good at picking up new languages, get a personal translator.
Another good idea is to visit the chamber of commerce and local law firms. They will help you do business in the country that you are in.
Once you know what your host country is like, you can get what you want. And the prospect of a profitable business is easier to materialize.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, contacts matter. You must get your connections for your business to go anywhere.
MENA is a vast region, so you need to know people for you to make moves. And networking starts with the first person you meet. Each person you befriend is a potential portal to a new network.
Armed with the knowledge of cultural norms and values, go out there and make as many friends as possible. And as you make more friends in MENA, the more possibilities open up to you.
Arabs like to do business with people they are fond of. Regardless of cultural differences, we are all people who are vulnerable to love. Love your brother and what he values, and you will go far in making friends.
To show your love, you need to communicate verbally. And for this reason, you should be as friendly and respectful while talking. Also, you can share some of your old stories. The more you get to know about one another, the better the bond of trust grows.
Don’t be an introvert and avoid putting that extra effort into communicating. And remember that listening is a crucial aspect of communication. Try to understand your friend’s point of view.
Westerners communicate over the email while making important business decisions. However, that is not the case in Saudi Arabia and other MENA countries.
The best form of communication for business purposes is a face-to-face conversation. And if that is not possible, a phone call is the next best alternative.
If you send an email, no one will read it unless you call to follow up. Written communication is for less urgent matters.
The best practice is to go and meet the person you need to talk to. This might be strenuous, but it’s worth the extra effort to sustain business relations.
Remember that MENA is a land of diversity, so acknowledge it instead of stereotyping. It has great oil wealth but also a scarcity of resources in certain countries.
Learn as much as you can about the norms and values of doing business and society. It will serve you well to get a professional guide to teach you about your target audience.
Communication is vital, so make as many friends as possible and grow your network. To do so, be friendly and make a habit of making friendly conversation.
Finally, when it comes to important business communication, it is best to talk in person. MENA holds enormous potential for success that is a few steps away. We wish you the best in your business ventures.