Relationships & Communication
Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust.
A third party introduction will go a long way in providing an initial platform from which to work.
Italians much prefer face-to-face contact, so it is important to spend time in Italy developing the relationship.
Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you.
Demeanour is important as Italians judge people on appearances and the first impression you make will be a lasting one.
Italians are intuitive. Therefore, make an effort to ensure that your Italians colleagues like and trust you.
Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy. Personal contacts allow people to get ahead.
Take the time to ask questions about your business colleagues family and personal interests, as this helps build the relationship
Italians are extremely expressive communicators. They tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
Business Meeting Etiquette
Appointments are mandatory and should be made in writing (in Italian) 2 to 3 weeks in advance.
Reconfirm the meeting by telephone or fax (again in Italian).
Many companies are closed in August, and if they are open many Italians take vacations at this time, so it is best not to try to schedule meetings then.
In the north, punctuality is viewed as a virtue and your business associates will most likely be on time.
The goal of the initial meeting is to develop a sense of respect and trust with your Italian business colleagues.
Have all your printed material available in both English and Italian.
Hire an interpreter if you are not fluent in Italian.
It is common to be interrupted while speaking or for several people to speak at once.
People often raise their voice to be heard over other speakers, not because they are angry.
Although written agendas are frequently provided, they may not be followed. They serve as a jumping off point for further discussions.
Decisions are not reached in meetings. Meetings are meant for a free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say.
In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk.
In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business.
Allow your Italian business colleagues to set the pace for your negotiations. Follow their lead as to when it is appropriate to move from social to business discussions.
Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people.
Hierarchy is the cornerstone of Italian business. Italians respect power and age.
Negotiations are often protracted.
Never use high-pressure sales tactics.
Always adhere to your verbal agreements. Failing to follow through on a commitment will destroy a business relationship.
Heated debates and arguments often erupt in meetings. This is simply a function of the free-flow of ideas.
Haggling over price and delivery date is common.
Decisions are often based more on how you are viewed by the other party than on concrete business objectives.
Dressing well is a priority in Italy.
Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
Elegant accessories are equally important for men and women.
Business cards are exchanged after the formal introduction.
To demonstrate proper respect for the other person, look closely at their business card before putting it in your card holder.
It is a good idea to have one side of your business card translated into Italian.
If you have a graduate degree, include it on your business card.
Make sure your title is on your card. Italians like knowing how you fit within your organization.