Find here the full China paradigm episode 34. Learn more about Nicolas Clement’s story and business negotiation in China and find all the details and additional links below.
Full transcript below:
Matthieu David: Hello, everyone. I am Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue consulting and its podcast China marketing podcast, China Paradigm. Today I am with Nicolas Clement, who is the founder of Nego Asia, the authority of business negotiation in China. Two years ago, you founded Nego Asia and represented at the same time Halifax Consulting, which is one of the leading companies in the training area in Europe. You are focusing on training business negotiation in China after spending 12 years in the venture capitals in China basically, working in the real estate industry, for a company in touch with other industrial companies, a very big one. And the reason why we named this podcast China marketing podcast, China paradigm is that we believe every company now has a China paradigm, whether it’s small, medium or big, there is a Chinese paradigm. The economy is different.
The way it works in investment in China is really different. And China has 20-25% of the world population and certainly in the coming decade, will become the first world economic power. It’s also different in terms of business negotiation in China.
Another thing I like to go in depth with you is how different it is and what skills you need to have to succeed in the negotiation with Chinese investors. Thank you very much, Nicolas, for being with us. The first question would be, I hope I didn’t say anything incorrect, so please feel free to correct me if it is. What is the size of your business now? How many clients have you served? How many investments in China have you worked on? Could you please give us a bit of an idea in terms of development now?
Nicolas Clement: Thank you very much, Matthieu. Hi everyone. Indeed, I spent 12 years in China and more than 30 years negotiating with Chinese investors. And last year, I trained about 400 people in my first year of activity, half of whom were Chinese. All of them, except three or four, were in China. More recently, I trained 70 people with one of my colleagues of Halifax Consulting in Kuala Lumpur for a Tech 40 company. I coach as well and consult with a lot of entrepreneurs in China on agreements, either with their shareholders or with their venture capitalists in China. I was fortunate enough last year to animate a panel with XNode, which is a role play of entrepreneurs in China for the negotiations with the venture capitals in China. Two weeks down the road, I will animate a panel with French founders and next month with the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, a sign that negotiation is a central topic for everybody, as it should have for many years, and as you mentioned, raised by some ancient philosophers of negotiation. It has been around for centuries, but it’s now becoming a very hot topic.
There have been four phases in the business negotiation in China to take the same vocabulary as yours. I like to talk about Negotiation 4.0. I think you knew negotiation one on one, which was win-lose, how to make the most of any deal, whatever the outcome for the other party, you might call them the used-car salesman negotiation. Then there was the age of win-win. I win, you win, and in the beginning, that worked well in the 80s. It was a great idea because it was for rationale actors, and it came from the perspective to have the responsibility for the outcome for the other party as well. Then there was, as you mentioned, ‘Start with No,’ which was coined by one of my mentors, the leading, contemporary philosopher of negotiation Jim Camp.
Matthieu David: Just to interrupt you. You are referring to a talk we had before the recording, so people who are listening to us don’t know we talked about ancient philosophers of negotiation like Sun Tzu and Niccolò Machiavelli, but I’d like to ask these questions later on. So, I found the quote of Jim Camp, that’s the one you are talking about, Camp Negotiation Systems, also ‘Start with No.’ I think it is the best seller. I saw it in some online libraries telling about you that Nicolas is one of those rare individuals who not only master by disciplines of business negotiation in China but continues to build upon them by delivering a top 1% performance level, from someone we’ve recognized as the master philosophers of negotiation like Jim Camp.
Nicolas Clement: That is very nice of you. Yes, Jim was my coach during the past five years. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago, but his teachings are still with me. I think it was Negotiation 3.0, and now the investment in China needs negotiation 4.0, which means for me co-construction of a better future with conversations between real people. Emotions must be there. Respect for another person must be there, but in the meantime, neurosciences have proved that it is impossible to 100% rush your decision. So, you have to take that into account.
Matthieu David: When you’re talking about the different stages of negotiation, I am interested to know If you identify those stages because the society is changing or the science of negotiation has advanced. I feel by what you just say now is because the science of negotiation has advanced with neuroscience. But on the other way, you talk about the ’80s when players are rational, which is also a change in a society or maybe it’s more of both.
Nicolas Clement: That’s a very good question. Actually, it’s a little bit of both, because of a lot of the valued principles that I use to coach, concert, and teach on business negotiation in China have been around for 2000 years. You can find them from the ancient philosophers of negotiation like Socrates, who asks a lot of questions instead of trying to pursue it. This has been around for ages. You asked a question about the number of negotiations I have coached. It’s difficult to say; I can tell you that the largest one last year was 700 million Euros.
Matthieu David: Wow. That’s the thing I wanted to ask you. You talked about helping business negotiation in China for getting investment in China, venture capitals in China and so on, but this sounds like a very big deal like 700 million. How do you charge? Because it’s very different businesses, to help an entrepreneur in China who is going to raise funds and find investment in China and to help a business that is going to be a 700-million deal. How do you work on this? Do you take equity from the entrepreneur in China, or would you take a commission from the deal?
Nicolas Clement: That’s also an excellent question. I will right away use the ‘Start with No’ philosophy by telling you that I am not prepared to answer this in a lot of details. However, what I can tell you is of paramount importance is to establish an alignment of interest with the venture capitals in China I work with. So, depending on the situation, fees can totally vary along with several fees structures.
Matthieu David: Understood. So, you mentioned in a conversation previously about ancient philosophers of negotiation. There is a famous one in China, Sun Tzu, who has been a master of war strategy, not exactly business negotiation in China. But one of thing I remember from him is that you need to win before you fight, which is all about business negotiation in China. Don’t fight. Don’t go to this very, very hard battlefield and lose the blood of your army. You need to win before even you go for your fight. What do you take from ancient philosophers of negotiation like Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and certainly all those I don’t even know?
Nicolas Clement: There is a problem with the paradigm of business negotiation in China as well. Because if you think war exactly as you mentioned, you mean winning over somebody or territory, which is detrimental to the long-term success of business negotiation in China. About Sun Tzu, what I would say is that of course, you quote a famous one from the movie ‘Wall Street,’ “Every battle is won before it is ever fought.” However, in Sun Tzu, I prefer another one that is totally applicable to the business negotiation in China, which is in ancient times, great warriors started by making themselves invincible then waited for the enemy to be vulnerable. So, ‘enemy’ is not the right word you could say, adversary, meaning the people who are on the other side. Originally, adversary means the other side of the river, and that’s it at the beginning of the business negotiation in China. I am more into the importance of preparation than in the fact that you have to win over the adversary. You have to co-construct a better future, even in tough business negotiations in China, and it is all the more important that the negotiation is critical. As for Machiavelli, I think it is totally different because he worked more as an affair regarding political power and I would say that this is not 100% relevant to the realm of business negotiations in China.
Matthieu David: It’s more about maintaining power and dividing to reign. It’s a very different situation, I understand. What thinkers of negotiation from the past have initiated this thinking of business negotiations in China? I have two levels of questions first, Chinese speaking and secondly, more China-specific.
Nicolas Clement: What do you say about the two levels of questions?
Matthieu David: So, thinkers of negotiation like Sun Tzu and Socrates, do you have earlier thinkers of negotiation who were not from the 20th century? Which do you think have helped shape the skills and teachings for business negotiations in China?
Nicolas Clement: Okay. First of all, what do you think of Socrates?
Matthieu David: Myself?
Nicolas Clement: Yes.
Matthieu David: I learned that Socrates was asking a lot of questions, so it’s about asking a lot of questions to emerge some truth because we all have the truth inside ourselves. Is it business negotiations in China? I wouldn’t have said that it’s about business negotiations in China. I would have said it’s more to reach the truth. But maybe you agreed to find out something here.
Nicolas Clement: I don’t know. I think the truth is in the eyes of the beholder, especially in business negotiations in China. However, would you prefer someone to try and persuade you to do something or someone who asks you questions to elicit what is more important to you?
Matthieu David: I feel the question is about sophistic. Socrates was more looking for the truth, and sophists were more looking for persuading and not convincing people. So, I prefer to be convinced than persuaded?
Nicolas Clement: Interesting. So, you see what just happened. I asked you a couple of questions and learned a lot about you. And this is the essence of asking questions in business negotiations in China. If you don’t ask questions, you don’t know what the other party really wants. That’s why questions are so important and speaking about all sorts of older thinkers of negotiation, not necessarily ancient, I love Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is a 19th-century American author and sadist. Because he has said several things, which are totally relevant to the business negotiations in China and for me things that capture the essence of business negotiations in China. Actually, what is funny is that Emerson, I am not sure if he was exposed to the Tao Te Ching by Laozi, but I find that his writings are very close to it. I even own a book called the ‘Tao of Emerson’, which is a confirmation of this. Inside the book, he wrote one very interesting thing, which is, ‘what will you have, pay for it and take it.’ I find it extraordinary because if you read it carefully, it means that you have to know what you want, what you will have. ‘Pay for it and take it’ means that you have to pay to get what you want, not only by means of money but also using the pain that is requested to carefully negotiate with Chinese investors to be sure that what you get is what you wanted. Because if you get what you want without paying the price, the energy, the time, the money, the emotion, the pain to know the other party better, then you get the appearance of what you wanted. You get something else. Then the problem is that they also get something else at the implementation stage, which creates a lot of problems and compounds down the road. Sometimes, it will make the lawyers very rich. So, he’s really not forgotten that I love business negotiations in China.
Matthieu David: You say that part of the decision and skills is not the work for the business negotiations in China, but to understand the counterparty in order to make sure that at the implementation stage, there is also a very operational goal. Things are going to go a bit more smoothly than if you hadn’t done this homework of negotiating with Chinese investors. It’s also to learn from each other, isn’t it?
Nicolas Clement: Yes, it’s also to avoid any shortcuts, because shortcuts get you the appearance of the deal, the noise of negotiation, but it’s not a real business negotiation in China. And it’s not the deal you are looking for.
Matthieu David: Because we are talking about China and we are in China paradigm, with all the knowledge you have got from Carnegie Institute and the books you read and so on, how much is it applicable with the investment in China, with Chinese people, with Chinese companies? Have you had to change or amend some of the knowledge you have got?
Nicolas Clement: At the risk of shocking you, all this knowledge is burnt. Because knowledge is nothing without the human dimension that you bring to make venture capitals in China come forth, which means, yes, of course, you have to adapt everything to every situation. Now you are asking me, is it different to negotiate with Chinese investors? I don’t know because I don’t know them all. However, I mention Laozi, and there is a lot of Yin and Yang in business negotiation in China because you have to have empathy and start with the picture in the mind of the other party, whether it is an individual or collective mind. But at the same time, you also have needs and wants, and you need to assert them. You have to start from the perspective that it is all right for everybody to have their own needs. The role of business negotiations in China is to find ways to transform, let’s say individual preferences that are generally not aligned in the beginning, into one collective preference which is the outcome of the agreement.
Matthieu David: Your answer would be, principles of business negotiations in China are the same, but whatever the country, the city, or the situation, you have to adapt anyway and in the venture capitals in China you need to adapt because you always need to adapt to the situation. Is that what you are saying?
Nicolas Clement: I would say that’s what you are saying. However, if I want to be a little bit more precise, for instance, there is a China paradigm that is in business negotiation in China because there are a lot of negotiations that are not commercial, like partnerships. But on the buyer side of business negotiation in China, there is one big paradigm, which is the client is God. So how are you going to say no, if the client is not happy with your price? Do you have to have a paradigm shift?
Matthieu David: I understand what you are saying but why are you talking about that after I talked that business negotiation in China is based on principles, then you need to adapt based on the situation, like in China and US you always need to adapt. Is it linked to…?
Nicolas Clement: Because for me the most aversive paradigm, which kind of gets in the way of successful business negotiations in China, because even when the buyer asks you for discounts, it doesn’t mean that it is exactly what they want. And this is the paranormal principle, for instance, if I was in France, maybe I would ask how you are going to implement over the next three years seamlessly because that would be my concern. But if I am in China and I am going to consult with the venture capitals in China, and I have been training Chinese salespeople in my previous company. It’s how to make sure that you get your point across in a way that is saving for both parties. So yes, I would say face-saving in China is important, maybe more than in the U.S., or in Texas, where they are very direct. There are other states in the U.S., where an indirect approach could work very well, but face-saving is of paramount importance in China. So, you have to show your respect and understanding. You have to respect the Chinese rituals, but you still have the interests, and if they are not met, you are not going to be able to bring the outcomes that the other party is looking for, which is why you have to learn to be assertive in the business negotiations in China.
Matthieu David: I see. You say the principles of every business negotiation in China include face-saving to respect rituals, understanding the interest of the counterparty and being assertive for that. Talking about the rituals, from my own experience about China, as a foreigner, I’m considered as a foreigner, and I am not asked to be a Chinese. What would you say to those foreigners, you don’t have to comply to the Chinese rules, which will put you in a weaker situation because you use their rules and ways of behaving that are not your own way of behaving and it’s better to be true to yourself.
Nicolas Clement: Actually, I would say that we are guests, instead of foreigners. Imagine you are a guest, you come to someone’s house, wouldn’t you try to know a little about who they are, where they come from, their habits, what they like, what they don’t like before you ring their doorbell?
Matthieu David: Sounds logical. The question is, do you need to use the same game? You may keep actually your own way of behavior, even if you go to someone else’s house, your own character and don’t change it, but some people are conveying the message that you need to change everything when you go to China.
Nicolas Clement: First of all, is negotiation a game? Because in a game, someone wins and the other side, if someone wins the other side what do they do?
Matthieu David: They lose, right?
Nicolas Clement: Right. So, is it really a game? That’s the question. With that being said, be yourself, everybody else is taken, but you can be the polite version of yourself. Being interested in the other version of yourself, right? For me, that is of paramount importance. There are other Asian cultures where when you try to learn more about the culture and express that at the table, they hate it and close the door. But what I have found in China is wonderful. If you make an effort to learn a few sentences or four-word idioms, which shows your interest in the culture, there is a good enough factor that will make you a welcome guest. As a foreigner, you are a guest, whether you are a good guest or a bad guest, that’s entirely up to you. My advice is to be a good guest. My advice is not…
Matthieu David: I like to be a bit more technical. I saw on your website you were talking about BATNA, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Could you tell us about what it is and why you have written this concept on your website?
Nicolas Clement: So BATNA, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, was coined by Fisher and Ury in their book Getting to Yes, which was similar to the win-win system. It’s actually what you do instead of a deal when you don’t have a deal. For thirty years, it has been considered a big element of power in the business negotiation in China. But actually, the problem is that, maybe out of laziness, a lot of people think that BATNA is power, and that is not the case. You may have no BATNA and an extraordinary amount of power in business negotiation in China. And you may have a great BATNA and no power in business negotiation in China. In my training sessions, I have my coaches of trainees make a simulation of business negotiation in China. And most of the time, almost 100%, it really rocks their world, because this concept of BATNA is turned upside down.
Matthieu David: Could you give a concrete example for people to project in the BATNA, in the situation?
Nicolas Clement: Let’s say that you are buying a company. You are trying to capture the Chinese market right now. If you buy this company, through various studies, you know that the value of your company will be increased by 100 million, so you are prepared to pay up to 80-90 million to invest in China. You know that the seller has no BATNA, but the seller knows that if you don’t buy his company, you will have to build a factory and recruit the people. It’s a process that can last 12-24 months. The estimated cost is 70-80 million but could go through the roof. So, you have a BATNA, but the cost of no deal to you is huge. That’s another way to look at the element of power in the business negotiation in China.
Matthieu David: I understand. You are working both in shareholder agreement and business negotiation in China and also in negotiation for the investment in China. Do you have a framework for those three different types of business negotiations in China, or they go through a very similar process?
Nicolas Clement: I have a framework for the fundamentals of business negotiations in China, and then a lot of the work I do with my clients individually are not the same, but they still have a framework.
Matthieu David: Let’s talk specifically about the agreement. You may have any investment in China, and you may need to negotiate with Chinese investors about terms. What are the parameters to take into account? I know it’s a bit general because every company is different and each investment in China is different, but what would you advise to the entrepreneurs in China who are listening to us, in terms of parameters to have in mind and to consider?
Nicolas Clement: First of all again, business negotiation in China is a human performance event, so you have to be sure you get along with the people because they are in for the long term. Even the short-term ones, they are in for 3 to 5 years. Second, you have to be sure, as you mentioned earlier, every battle is won before its ever fought. You have to be sure that in front of you, you have the right kind of investment in China, Angel Investor, Expert Investor, series A investor, last round investors. You really have to know whether you have landed in the right category. After laying the groundwork, there is an important element, which is whether you want an investor who will buy shares and maximize the value of the company or maximize the cash that you will receive because it’s not the same.
Matthieu David: You need to be clear about your objective of the investment in China. You need to be clear about your own objective, your personal objective.
Nicolas Clement: Yeah, what will you have? Pay for it and take it. Then you have to lay the groundwork for the business negotiation in China, a lot of negotiations with the venture capitals in China. Entrepreneurs in China sometimes make a mistake to have the venture capitals in China sign 10 NDAs before and the venture capitals in China don’t have the time to do that and will never anyway enter the business. You also have to show some goodwill by yourself if you don’t want to close the door before you can even have a little look at what the venture capitals in China can bring to you. You have to know whether the venture capitals in China know your industry, whether they have already brought startups like yours to succeed, stuff like that. After that, term sheets are so long that it’s impossible to give a general rule. But you have to think about what will happen in the other rounds down the road. That is very important.
Matthieu David: I think what you are saying is that, even if an investment in China should be a rational decision because at the end of the day, the people who put the money they’re looking for the ROI, which is very, very rational. It’s about numbers, but when dealing with your investors in China, I think it’s much more about the alignment that the people are connected well, that you agree on your purpose. Is it that part of your job is also to make both parties understand what they want clearly? Now I came to understand why you mentioned Socrates. Is it a big part of your work?
Nicolas Clement: It’s better if both parties of the investment in China are professionally prepared, because contrary to what people think if you are extremely well prepared and the other side is not, you have a problem. They will say no to everything. You will scare them. So yes, you have to help them see what you see, and you have to try hard to help them see the value of explaining to you what they are after. I’m not talking only about young entrepreneurs in China. Sometimes there is the same issue with listed companies.
Another thing is, you ask me about need. Actually, need, and neediness is a big problem in business negotiation in China. Because if I ask you to close your eyes and imagine you are an entrepreneur in China, you have a great product, a great idea, but your burn rate is terrible, and you need 8 million or else. Now imagine the need for this 8 million within one month, and it’s impossible not to think about what would happen if you don’t get them. Now you feel the emotions associated with the fear of no deal. A lot of negotiators in the investment in China are trained to exacerbate this fear to get the most out of you. Because sometimes they are not after the same thing as you are. They could disguise the willingness for a long-term deal, but the real thing is they want a short-term deal from this business negotiation in China.
Matthieu David: I see. I think that the fear of no deal is a concept that you’re targeting on in your training, isn’t it?
Nicolas Clement: Yes. The probability generally gets you the thing that you fear. We are in Asia. It’s good to empty your mind. You prepare a lot but then a little bit like the actor on the stage, you forget about stage fright and you go at it as if it were going to work.
Matthieu David: Going back to the concept, so the art of no deal, I understand. You talked about the four stages of business negotiation in China, the last stage being Negotiating 4.0. It’s about the co-creation of a better future. It seems beautiful and nice, but isn’t it wishful thinking? Isn’t it very politically correct to say we’re going to build a better future together and I am going to take my part or in fact your part? What do you really mean by this concept?
Nicolas Clement: I fully agree with you that the things, the wishful thinking and that’s exactly what I said. What you just said after that would be, “Let’s discover America! Okay, let’s go.” That would be wishful thinking. However, you have to start somewhere with a mission and purpose in business negotiation in China, and this can be vocabulary, champ vocabulary, mission and purpose that actually brings you back to the definition of business negotiation in China. So, when in my seminars, workshops, master classes, conferences, I ask what is business negotiation in China. I never get the same answer. It has never happened. The first thing is, how are you going to negotiate with Chinese investors if you are not playing the same game, if it is a game, and it is not even a game. You have to have a higher purpose, a shared, higher purpose, and you have to know what you want and what they want. You have to get them to tell you as much of what they want as is appropriate for them to tell you. And then, it’s actually tri-dimensional, because, in the business negotiation in China, you have your perspective. You try to get the perspective of the other side and a third perspective, which would be the perspective of an observer. So, it’s tri-dimensional, and there are techniques from a lot of different disciplines of business negotiation in China, which were not readily available 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. But it’s possible for today to construct business negotiation in China differently than how they were constructed before. Today you can have different approaches, which maximize the chances to do a good investment in China.
Matthieu David: I understand. Would you be able to share more specifically some techniques for business negotiation in China, or even one technique you’d like to share? Something practical that people who are listening to us could be able to use in the future.
Nicolas Clement: The problem with technique or tactic is that it’s meant to exploit weakness of the other side, but I think that if you see business negotiation in China as a problem-solving technique or toolbox, then one important thing could be to ask yourself, I go back to Socrates, what is my problem? What is the one approach I can find to solve both with one business negotiation in China? If you’re able to ask yourself this question, even to try to have a 5% off on a loaf of bread and I’m not sure it would work, it’s already a great start. You have to try to find non-risky situations to try this.
Matthieu David: Interesting, okay. Nonrisky situations.
Nicolas Clement: Don’t practice in front of the client, the venture capitals in China, and the shareholder. Practice before.
Matthieu David: What do you see about the place, because what you are describing is, we need to play some roles before, maybe be on one side and the other side before entering the venture capitals in China. You have techniques right to train, with those roles playing and so on.
Nicolas Clement: Yes, we do. Actually, what we do is we try to emulate the best business negotiation in China that work in the real world. There is also a wonderful book by Anders Ericsson called ‘Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,’ which explains how to emulate the best to maximize the value of training. This book talks about deliberate practices used by tennis people, golfers, and pianists. They discover one point that they really want to master among one hundred other points, and this is the thing they are going to work on repeat again and again and again until it becomes second nature. There is the saying that practice makes perfect. It is actually not true. It’s a perfect practice which makes perfect. So, you really have to emulate, and that’s what we do in our consulting coaching and training. We transpose best practices combined and tested with the best of academic expertise. I completed two years ago a professional certificate in Strategic Decisions & Risk Management from Stanford University, where I got 97% at the negotiation exam. You have to check if the academy is okay, but if they are not, I would then say that the real truth lies with the best practices in the real world.
Matthieu David: Let’s talk about practice then.
Nicolas Clement: That is the next factor that may have been overlooked by faculty.
Matthieu David: Understood. Let’s talk about practice. Would you be able to name a case, maybe a case you have worked on or not worked on, a famous case about a business negotiation in China, which is specifically inspiring you, something that really happened at a large scale in the investment in China?
Nicolas Clement: You mean in the investment in China right now?
Matthieu David: Could be in the investment in China right now, when I think about negotiation, I’m thinking about Cuba negotiating with Canada about weapons. This is a very typical negotiation case. Would you have more recent cases that you have worked on that you would be able to share about the negotiation? Without giving the names and making it possible for us to guess, or a case that is known in the press in terms of the negotiation, which has been inspiring and interesting for you.
Nicolas Clement: That’s going to be very difficult, because, you mention Cuban missile crisis and for me that’s one of the richest examples of how you can negotiate in an absolutely fearsome context, where the outcome of the negotiation can mean the end of the world or whether the world is going to go on. Actually, there is a fantastic movie called ‘Thirteen Days’ about the Cuban missile crisis. I mentioned this film to one of my mentors in business negotiation in China, and it became a requirement for all the top management of the group. Because this is an example of, I wrote an article recently on how are you going to negotiate if you don’t speak the same language, not necessarily Mandarin or English, but even if you speak English and there is not the same around the worlds. Here in this movie, you see it because one of the militaries doesn’t understand that actually, Canadians are inventing a new negotiation language. So that’s one of the best examples.
Matthieu David: How do you define the new language they’ve created?
Nicolas Clement: I would advise you to watch the movie.
Matthieu David: Okay.
Nicolas Clement: Because it was very specific to that movie, the Cuban missile crisis. But in the current times, you can talk about big business negotiation in China, which is going on in the Chinese retail industry. Did both sides in the trade war see the same thing? Did both sides, I’m sure you know which one I’m referring to, have a lying interest? Did everybody see what could happen on the longer term? And the longer term became very short for one of the sides. Yes, you have lessons to be learned everywhere. There is a big lesson in the takeover by Coca Cola of a Chinese company 10 years ago, and they didn’t understand the concept of Yin Yang. They bragged about a great deal that they had done. The deal was done actually, so their Yang became far too high and it triggered the Ying of a negative reaction from the authorities. The deal was forbidden by the authorities. If the Coca Cola negotiators said, “It was a very tough deal, and I’m not sure what will come out of it, and for sure we really had a great victory,” then the deal would have come through.
Matthieu David: Okay, interesting. You talked about books. I’d like to know if you have other books to recommend about business negotiation in China and I’d like to have your opinion about one book because the guy is famous, ‘Trump: the Art of the Deal’. I’m sure you have an opinion on it. Is it a good book on business negotiation in China?
Nicolas Clement: Yes. The Art of the Deal was a good book when it was published because it had an element of novelty and people didn’t know how corporate real estate deals were made in New York City at the time, and there was some value to it. At the end of the book, there was also a look at the authors’ daily agenda, so it was called a day in the life. There was some value to it, but it has to be replaced in the context of the early ’80s when it was written.
Matthieu David: Interesting. So, you mean that this book is very specific to real estate and also the way it was written gives a lot of transparency like one day in the life of the author. It was very new. This is what you’re saying?
Nicolas Clement: Yes.
Matthieu David: Okay, then my broader question about books is, you mentioned 3 to 5, maybe actually a bit more, books so far, would you have 2 or 3 of these books you would recommend reading if someone is interested in business negotiation in China?
Nicolas Clement: I think the first book to read would be “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz. The first reason is that Chris was also inspired somehow by Jim Camp and has developed ideas that could work in the real world. So, that’s a good book about business negotiation in China. I love another book, which is called “The Power of Nice”, written by a professor called Ron Shapiro, which is somehow bridging the gap between the mathematically-correct aspects of business negotiation in China rationally and the more hands-on real world. Another hard look at how the real world works would be a book by Margaret Neale, a Stanford professor, and the title of the book is “Getting More of What You Want.”
Matthieu David: How come most of the literature on business negotiation in China is American?
Nicolas Clement: We don’t know that for a fact. There may be a lot of Chinese books that I don’t know of.
Matthieu David: I see. Nicolas, thank you very much for the time you took with us, I am sure that everyone who is listening to us will look into one of those books and learn about what you said and I’m sure some of them will attend some of your classes and training including – I know you are very active in the French Chamber of Commerce in China, and you are doing some training in the chamber.
Nicolas Clement: Yes, thank you very much, it was really an honor for me to be one of your guests, I hope I have made the necessary efforts to be a welcome guest and a good guest, and I thank you very, very much for inviting me.
Matthieu David: Thanks to Nicolas. Bye – bye everyone.
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