In business organisation is key in Germany. There is a heavy emphasis on planning, consultation and risk analysis. Decision making is always the result of careful planning and evaluation of facts, statistics and details. Germans do not like uncertainty and risk and like to have written documentation of all details, agreements and plans. When presenting a proposal ensure you are thoroughly prepared with all the necessary information to hand and having evaluated all potential risks.
Germans like to maintain a high level of formality where business is concerned so using sales techniques and charm is definitely not a good approach. Communication should be direct, short and to the point and you should always maintain eye contact when speaking. Although humour is appreciated providing it is tasteful and appropriate. Germans value their privacy and like to keep their private and public lives separate. This initial lack of intimacy can be perceived as coldness however once you have built a good rapport and have earned their trust you can then build more intimate working relationships.
In terms of working culture Germans like to follow traditional rules and regulations to maintain structure and order. You are expected to respect the time of others. Meetings should be booked at least two or three weeks in advance and long telephone conversations should be planned ahead to allow for this to be accounted for in the day’s schedule. Punctuality is extremely important so you should avoid being late or early so as to avoid appearing disrespectful.
Hierarchy should be highly respected in business. The most senior people should enter the room and be greeted first in meetings and you should address people using Herr (Mr) or Frau (Mrs/Ms) followed by their surname. First names are used only by family and friends or until you are asked to use their first name. Also, professional titles should be used for doctors, academics etc. A firm, quick handshake is the norm when doing business and men are expected to stand when women enter the room. When conducting a meeting ensure you stick to the agenda and keep to the proposed start and finish times.