Americans Negotiating in China: Getting TIC-ed Off.

Yeah, but things are different here. This is China.” I was surprised to hear the words come out of my own mouth, because this is the kind of statement I usually hear from others. But as soon as I said them, the conversation filled with air and I had scored a point in the pre-deal give & take.

This is China. TIC. A common and potent tactic in the battle for profits. When Americans hear this the response is usually fight or flight. Some people push back and insist that China is wrong and that they are right. Other’s simply give up and give in – the other side is surely right about everything because of their greater understanding of distribution channels or zoning laws.

The dangerous thing about being on the receiving end of a TIC is that you can’t dispute the facts. Fact 1—This is, in fact, China. Fact 2 – Your Chinese or China-based counterparty probably does have a great deal more information, experience and connection in China than you do. So you lose, right?

Not necessarily. While you certainly shouldn’t try to parry a “TIC” thrust with a direct rebuttal, you can turn it to your advantage. American deal-makers in China often complain that they don’t have enough visibility into the plans and operations of their local partners and customers. When your Chinese negotiating counter-party dismisses your proposal because “that’s not the way China works” – don’t push it. Instead, use the TIC defense to gain a little visibility into his business model by CALMLY asking him to explain how it does work in China.

The key here is to avoid 3 traps. 1 – Don’t take the TIC defense personally. It’s about the interests of your organization, not your own ego position. 2 – Don’t get drawn into a conflict. Keep the energy level low and friendly. 3 – Have a short list of questions or issues you want to learn more about.

The next time you get “TIC’ed” don’t treat it as door slamming in your face – instead, look for a window that may have just opened up.


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