Michael Van Keulen is the Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa Software. He’s also Dutch. In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, he shares some of the nuances of negotiating with Dutch people. One of the biggest takeaways: Dutch people are direct.
Why are Dutch People So Direct?
The Netherlands is a small country. Because of this, Michael notes that its people have to stand up for themselves, be creative, and differentiate.
Germany, Belgium, and France are competing nations that all had great leaders. Holland was always in the middle. They stood up against “Big Brother” by being assertive. They believe in being positively aggressive to control their own destiny.
They are willing to say, “Hey, I’m here. My opinion matters…I know how to drive meaningful change, transformative change, etc.” The Dutch raise their hand. They aren’t afraid to take accountability and responsibility.
It’s not about raising your hand to take on tasks but also being willing to take on the accountability that comes with responsibility. That’s where Michael faces challenges. He doesn’t want to be made accountable for business outcomes without having the ability to make changes required to achieve the outcomes they’re trying to accomplish.
Do the Dutch make decisions quickly?
In general, Dutch people are analytical but can make decisions quickly. However, Michael emphasizes that diversity in your team is important. You need others who can help you pause and reflect on your decisions. Michael leads to get things done. It can be great, but not everyone operates that way. Some people are visionaries. Others want to build relationships and whiteboard ideas. You have to recognize your tendencies and build diversity of thought and approaches in your team. When you do this, you’ll drive a better business outcome.
North Americans and other countries may perceive the Dutch as impatient. Michael points out that they just want to get to the point. So when you’re negotiating, tell them what you want to achieve. Tell them your target. If you do this from the start, Michael can tell you whether or not it’s attainable. He doesn’t want to waste their time.
How to generate rapport with Dutch people
State your objectives. Share what your unique selling points are. Do your homework. Demonstrate that you understand their business. Michael has had sales reps reach out to him, asking him to have a conversation about using their contract lifecycle management software when Coupa has its own. They didn‘t do their research. It baffles Michael how poorly prepped sales reps are for things like basic communication.
Michael shares that one negotiation style isn’t better than the other; they’re just different. It helps to approach negotiations by cultivating some understanding of the other party’s culture. When you can adapt accordingly, it makes the process that much easier.
The Dutch are welcoming and open to new ideas. Be direct, transparent, and well-prepared. If you demonstrate these characteristics, you’ll quickly come to an agreement or find out you aren’t the right fit for each other.
When you’re negotiating across cultures, building awareness is a great start. Knowing some of the characteristics of your counterparty may lead to a faster and more beneficial outcome. Learn all about it in episode #343 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast.