Speak their language
It is common knowledge that French people prefer to communicate in their own language. The French language is undoubtedly an integral part of French culture. And that also applies to communicating with anyone who wants to do business in France. Although the younger generation in particular speaks English quite a bit, a bit of knowledge of the French language will certainly give you a head start. So try to speak your business partner's language as well as possible. A French version of your website can also have a positive effect.
Anyone wanting to do business in France for the first time may be a little deterred by the French rules of courtesy. French people find it important to communicate in a business environment with the utmost politeness and caution. Always talk to your business partner with 'vous', unless you are allowed to use 'tu'. Shake hands with everyone, both on arrival and departure. The use of Monsieur and Madame is also recommended.
Respect the hierarchy
Most companies in France have a clear hierarchy. This means that decisions are often made only at the top level and that it can take some time to get an answer. Be aware that a proposal often has to pass through a number of people before it can be effectively decided. So it can take some time before your business partner has an answer for you.
Invest in your business relationship
The French like to take their time and enjoy talking about their country and their cultural interests. So before you get to the point, it can be worthwhile to find out more about your business partner's company or French culture. A good relationship is essential for them to do business with you. So take your time and have lunch, for example. That way, you will get to know him or her a little better first. However, during an initial interview, avoid asking questions that are too personal, for instance about family life. There is plenty of time for these kinds of questions later.
Although the French consider punctuality to be important when making appointments, this is not always the case when it comes to payment terms. So do not be surprised if your French business partner does not pay your invoice on time. In this case, it is better not to send a payment reminder or a registered letter, but to pick up the phone and explain the situation politely. Otherwise, you could be insulting your business partner.
French entrepreneurs like to plan in advance and so they are reluctant to take risks. Make sure that you are well prepared and that you always have an answer ready. Arguments must therefore always be well-founded and logical. This will make you a lot more credible for your French business partner and he or she will be more inclined to do business with you.
Do you want to know more about doing business in France or are you interested in taking that step? Please contact our specialists via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We base our advice on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from being able to challenge it or to change existing interpretations.