How to Negotiate in Brazil

Doing business in Brazil? Travelling to close an important deal with Brazilians? How to Negotiate in Brazil. Learn everything you should know before negotiating anything with Brazilians in less than 10 minutes.

What you should know before negotiating

  • Portuguese is the dominant language in Brazil. Be aware that Brazilians do not perceive themselves as Hispanics, and will only take offense if addressed in Spanish. But if you do speak Spanish you may ask to speak it, and they will accept it better.

  • In Brazilian business culture, English is widely spoken.

  • Women business travelers will have few problems dealing with male colleagues in Brazil.
    Be aware that it will probably take several trips to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.

  • Changing your negotiating team can jeopardize the entire contract and is a major breach of Brazilian business protocol. Moreover, you will have to emphasize that you value people and relationships over business.

  • Keep in mind that one common criticism Brazilians have of Americans is that they “leap right into business” before making the effort to build a personal relationship. They may also perceive Americans as arrogant.

  • Bring a plentiful supply of business cards, since Brazilians tend to be very keen about exchanging them.

No Hurry My Friend…

  • With the exception of Sao Paulo, Brazilian business culture generally has a slow pace and an informal atmosphere. Expect an air of formality, however, during initial meetings.

  • An important part of Brazilian business protocol is to begin a meeting with good-natured “small talk.” Delving immediately into business will only cause annoyance.

  • Generally, Brazilians are open to discussing a wide range of subjects, particularly in a business context. They tend to be very reticent, however, about discussing their private lives.

  • Private offices, even for senior executives, are not as common in Brazil. Consequently, be prepared for frequent interruptions during meetings.

  • Brazilians are generally analytical, abstract thinkers. Moreover, they will often look at the particulars of each situation, rather than seek guidance from a set of laws or rules

Also Important…

  • Empirical and other factual evidence will be considered, but usually only if this kind of information suits the purposes of the negotiator on the Brazilian side. Subjective feelings almost always prevail in problem-solving and decision-making. So be prepared to deal with this

  • If your Brazilian counterparts have reservations about you, this attitude will not be overcome by presenting them with impressive charts, graphs, or other empirical data. Instead, you will have to effectively use your personality, cultural awareness, and other interpersonal skills to win your Brazilian counterparts over to your side.

  • During negotiations, avoid confrontations and mask frustrations of any kind.

  • Placing an emphasis on increased power and status, rather than money, is sometimes an effective negotiating strategy.

  • Be prepared to discuss all aspects of the contract at once rather than methodically, “point-by-point.”

  • Information that may seem irrelevant will often be reviewed over and over again.

Foreign Professionals Not Allowed to Practice in Brazil

  • Make sure you have a local accountant [contador, who will be aware of the financial laws and regulations], “notario” [is a notary], or an international lawyer on hand for all contract issues. Brazilians will only resent an “outside” legal presence.

  • Brazilians use periods to punctuate thousands; commas are used to delineate fractions.

  • Never leave as soon as a meeting is over. This action will only insult your colleagues and leave them with the impression that you think that you have more important things to do. Unless, however, you tell them at the beginning what your schedule is and how much time you have.

  • Brazilian business culture is intensely hierarchical; only the highest person in authority makes the final decision.

  • Documents aren’t signed immediately after an agreement is reached; a handshake and a person’s word are considered sufficient. The necessary papers will be prepared and signed later.

  • In the various subcultures of Brazil, a written agreement may not be considered binding and, consequently, can be subject to change.

  • Class [in economic terms] and status are a major influence in this society and often determine the type of job a person will have. The assumption that the powerful are entitled to special privileges, however, is starting to be questioned.


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