Contact us:

5 Tips for Negotiating with Saudis

  1. Spend plenty of time building relationships and socializing. Business is personal in Saudi Arabia, and relationship building is essential. Nothing can be done without "˜wasta," defined roughly as a network of relationships. First meetings are usually intended to get to know each other personally, as human beings, rather than as representatives of corporations, to see if there is "chemistry" between you. Flying in to make a deal overnight simply does not work. For important projects it is essential to have someone on the ground who has, or is establishing, wasta.

  2. Respect the hierarchy absolutely. Equals deal with equals. Principals usually talk about the "vision" and general framework of the project - not about details of the deal. Once that is done, subordinates carry out the technical discussions. Also consider the importance of sending someone with decision-making power. Saudis greatly dislike negotiating with someone who has to get approvals from higher ups, as this can be interpreted as disrespect toward them.

  3. Do not underestimate the power of the "advisors" surrounding the principals. Many Saudi companies are privately owned by the family and are involved in a wide range of activities. Therefore, advisors frequently have specific knowledge of the industry sector or may simply have the trust of the principal and, consequently, can make or break a deal. They are usually on the right hand side of the principal.

  4. Saving face is essential in Saudi society and is a question of honor. Never ever do anything to cause or allow a Saudi to lose face, especially in a public setting. The boss is usually considered right no matter what, and who says something is usually more important than what is said.

  5. Do not underestimate non-commercial factors that are very important in negotiations. Just as, or perhaps more important than price, can be factors such as relationships, prestige that they may get by being associated with you, training and knowledge transfer that you will provide to Saudi nationals, and commitment to the development of Saudi Arabian economy. If you have prestigious clients, do mention their names, but show discretion by avoiding details of your involvement with them. Saudization (Saudi nationals taking over the positions held by expatriates) is an essential center-piece of Saudi policies. Hence any and all programs that may help to nurture local talent provide a competitive edge and can be a big plus.

by Sharjeel Moutier

About Us

Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.


Services Offered

Globalization has made cross-border business deals more common than ever. But, every day, deals are jeopardized or lost when foreign associates are offended by Americans unaware of other countries' customs, culture or manner. while traveling, meeting a foreigner here or communicating on the...



Our CultureCorner offers a wide variety of information through articles, tips, quizzes, and titbits in addition to monthly Business Holidays in different countries. Access various types of information by clicking on your theme of choice.

global competence form

Sign up for our Infoletter and download for free:

Global Competence: A White Paper


Click here to download the white paper