More and more Israeli organizations and delegates are outbound for the Gulf region wanting to take advantage of the business opportunities the “Abraham Accords Peace Agreement” has made possible.
Here are a number of business tips when doing business in the UAE:
- For the first visit, try to meet the end-users, government agencies, banks, and consultants not just distributors or agents so you can receive a variety of views.
- It is common for meetings to be rescheduled or delayed, so ensure you have other contacts in your visit plan to fill any gaps. The reason for delays or rescheduling is due to a variety of factors ranging from a call from a ‘higher authority’, family business, or prayer times.
- While your Emirati colleague may delay the meeting, you, as a visitor do not have the same flexibility. Their perception of Westerners is that they are punctual.
- If your meeting is canceled, leave behind a pre-prepared note on your company letterhead regretting that you were disappointed to miss your contact. Suggest meeting at an alternative time, along with your hotel and telephone details.
- As visits may involve rescheduled meetings, it is important to operate flexibly. It is unrealistic to plan a two-day visit with five calls per day and presume your itinerary will run to time. Always allow an extra day.
- Arab meeting settings in the UAE vary so it is advisable to come prepared. In many instances, you may be meeting with an expatriate executive and the meeting will follow western meeting etiquette.
- There are many characteristics of Arab meetings in the UAE. Coffee should always be offered. Your host may interrupt the meeting at any time to answer calls or to sign paperwork. Accept this and greet him politely if introduced. Your host may even suspend the meeting to attend prayers. Do not get impatient; wait for your host to resume the meeting.
- Be ready for long, often poetic speeches and expansive conversation. Patience is the key for meetings with the Arabs.
Making your pitch
- Arabs place great emphasis on the past; therefore, discuss your company’s track record and achievements Real achievements backed by photos and testimonies will count more towards selling your “product” than the abstract “vision” of your plans for the future. Storytelling is also a compelling way for people to remember you. Share a story about a specific project or a challenging issue that your organization faced and how you managed to overcome the issue.
- Pay attention to your company’s branding. Prestige is important. Potential clients want to see what your status is within your home country. A good website with solid links to relevant partners in the industry or associations makes a good impression.
- When making a presentation, please note Arabs are circular thinkers and thus tend to learn through their senses and through memorizing. The use of imagery, analogy, repetition, and graphics is important. Always highlight the human aspects of the project and the benefit to Emirati nationals. How many jobs will your project create, the benefit to the environment, and to the urban development? Make sure all your written materials are translated into Arabic and have a native speaker review content for any offensive words or sentences.
- Your audience will expect you to have done your homework in understanding their culture. Engage in small talk before the presentation and always show respect to the most senior person in the room.
- Like in Israel, they might interrupt your presentation to ask questions or make comments. Do not take it personally, it shows they are paying attention and are engaged. In the end, allow time for a Q&A session and be prepared to know all aspects of your product as they will ask diversified questions. If there are no questions, you may assume your product is of no interest to them.
One of the important rules in all cross-cultural interactions is that “perception is reality”. Getting to know the Emirati perceptions of your culture is key to business success. The key is building on the positive perceptions and lessening the negative perceptions.