Business dealings in Mexico reach far beyond any conference room in a skyscraper building. It is imperative that a good interpersonal relationship exists before attempting to enter into any business negotiations. A Mexican PR agency will help smooth this path, by introducing you to the relevant influencers and media outlets. Verbal agreements are considered as valid and important as written contracts, so be aware not to promise anything verbally that you are unable or unwilling to follow up with.
Mexicans are far too polite to ever say no. If they say they will get back to you on a suggested business agreement, this may mean it’s a no go, but they don’t want to offend you by saying so.
Socialising outside of the work environment is considered crucial to business relationships in Mexico. It is not unusual for a business associate to invite you round to their family home at the weekend, introducing new colleagues to their families, and ultimately getting a better sense of who you are personally, in addition to what you are offering on a corporate level.
Personal space is different in Mexico, and other Latin American countries, than what is the standard in North America, or Europe for example. Mexicans tend to stand quite close to one another when engaged in conversation, and physical contact is expected, from the lingering handshake, sometimes using both hands, to the pat on the back or shoulder. A kiss on the cheek is a common greeting, even in business relationships. Backing away from this interpersonal contact will make you appear cold, and possibly untrustworthy, so be prepared. Women initiate handshakes with men, and not vice versa.
In business meetings, there is considerable small talk to evolve before anything of a ‘serious’ nature is discussed. Sometimes, the business element of a meeting may be only conducted as it appears the meeting is about to end. Let your host dictate the pace. If a Mexican does business with your company, it’s because they like you as a person, and not just because your commercial offer meets their needs. If they don’t like you, or if you appear pushy, they will simply back away. Keep topics light, and avoid anything that may be consider ‘unpleasant’ or embarrassing to your host.
Punctuality can be loose in Mexico (although it is improving), and your business acquaintance may arrive late to a meeting, without any disrespect intended. Don’t follow this lead. Arrive punctually, but be mentally prepared for a possible wait. Dress conservatively, and be aware of your body language. Slouching, for example, is seen as a sign of boredom. Be prepared for meetings to be canceled at short notice, and don’t be afraid to confirm meetings several times in advance of the meet date. It shows your interest in the connection. Generally, Mexicans will consider any meeting scheduled with someone who is non-resident in Mexico as tentative until you actually set foot on Mexican soil
Don’t presume that you can call someone by their first name, as this can appear to be disrespectful. Rather, address people by their correct title, and if unsure revert to Senor / Senora / Senorita, followed by their surname, until they have given the green light to use their first name. Maintain eye contact with business contacts, without appearing to stare.
Cash is King
Cash is king in Mexico, with around 90% of daily transactions performed with bank notes, rather than with bank cards, or online transactions. A staggering 56% of the adult population of the country still did not have a formal bank account in their name in 2006, while 77% of Mexicans said they didn’t trust the security of card payments, due to a commonly held fear of cloning, and payment fraud.
Companies should bear this in mind when setting up new operations in Mexico. Not accepting cash or debit card payments may hamper sales at initial stages of market penetration. Those Mexicans that do use banks cards, prefer to use debit rather than credit cards. Remembering the centrality of trust in engagement with the Mexican market, companies should always provide tracking numbers to customers, when using the postal service to deliver products, as a long held mistrust exists with the postal service.
OXXO is a popular alternative to cash payments in Mexico, and the company dominates 32% of the e-commerce sector, serving some 10 million customers every day. Consumers selected OXXO as the form of payment goods, services, utility bills, and receives a voucher with a bar code, which can be paid at any of thirteen thousand convenience stores dotted around the country.