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China expert, keynote speaker and President of the Australia China SME Association, David Thomas, has released a new tell all guide on how to successfully do business with the Chinese. ExporterToday secured a sneak preview.

According to David Thomas, the key to success in selling to the Chinese is to drink three cups of tea. 
“The Chinese have been doing business the same way for centuries and they only do business with people they trust,” David Thomas says. 
“While we all like to do business with people we trust, the reality is that the Chinese have mastered the art of building and maintaining trust through long term relationships. They like to get to know the people they do business with. It is imperative for them to understand and like the values, behaviours and style of the people involved and if they don’t, they won’t do business with them. 
“In my experience, this involves taking ‘three cups of tea’.  While a simple approach, it usually works. 
“While I use a cup of tea as a metaphor, meeting and doing business with the Chinese does involve drinking lots of tea – so in many respects, tea is the active ingredient in building a good solid relationship. 
“The need for speed and fast transactions needs to be put aside when dealing with the Chinese.   
“The first step in the process is to meet with them and have a cup of tea. A lot can be shared over a cup of tea. As ‘strangers’, this is the first opportunity for everyone to meet, get to know each other and find out how each person thinks and operates.   
This is not a time to discuss proposals, offers or contracts, this is a time to create good first impressions and to show a genuine interest and curiosity in their culture and environment.
“The Chinese build networks of relationships they trust and do business with, and the first step to doing business with the Chinese is to become part of their trusted network. 
“The second cup of tea involves getting to know each other a little more, becoming ‘friends’. Meeting again reaffirms everyone’s feeling about each other and the long term intent. It gives people the opportunity to develop a sense of what people are like to work with on a consistent basis. It also enables the relationship to move forward.  
By this stage, people should be getting to know each other a bit more. Confidence and trust should be growing.
“And finally the third cup of tea involves taking the relationship to the next level, and becoming part of their extended ‘family’ and inner circle. By this stage, everyone should feel entirely comfortable with each other. Trust should be established. This is the point at which business can be discussed.
“If these steps are followed and carefully respected, the relationship has a chance to develop into a successful and rewarding long term business partnership for both parties.
“As China continues to open up its market to the world and invite businesses from across the globe to sell to their growing middle class, there are significant opportunities for businesses to be part of this opportunity. However, in order to do so, businesses and leaders must understand how to work with the Chinese way of doing business.
“Hopefully my guide will provide some simple to follow steps.” 
The guide also covers important matters such as how to negotiate sales, understanding Chinese hierarchy and other important cultural issues.
The guide is available for free and can be downloaded at

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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