By Françoise Falisse
The culture factor
Morocco is famous for her people's hospitality and this cultural factor largely contributes to her touristic attractiveness abroad.
Could this cultural factor and others also influence the way they build business with their foreign partners? Is there a Moroccan style?
The well-known ritual of mint tea and their delicious « cornes de gazelle », as examples, are important to welcome their guests and during discussions. Watching the needs for their hosts is part of their upbringing. They greatly value the image they give of themselves, especially to foreigners whom they avoid disappointing. Hospitality, deeply rooted in Moroccan culture for centuries, is also to be observed in their kindness and their soft way of talking with foreigners. Appreciate their warm welcome as a sign of respect and courtesy. They value the quality of their relationship with you, building trust is essential to them and comes first before the products you intend to sell them.
Moroccan friendly and easy-going attitude
This attitude may leave the impression they are easy to deal with. Their enthusiasm provoked by their real interest to what is proposed to them (in terms of services, products, new technologies, projects, investment…) will not directly lead to the conclusion of a contract, at least not as quick as you expect. Give time to time and do not feel misleaded because many other factors, most of them unknown to the prospect (such as administrative, financial or power constraints, etc), are to be resolved before completing your negotiation.
French as a national and major business language
French native speakers will first find it easy to come in contact with Moroccans as French is a national and major business language (dealing with France, Belgium, other North-African countries, Sub-Saharian countries, but also Quebec) together with Arabic (with Near and Middle-east), English and Spanish coming next.
Preference for an indirect, affective and rather formal mode of communication
Moroccans will hardly ever answer you with a negative answer even if they mean so or if they cannot answer your request. The direct « no » is often avoided when discussing or negotiating and they can also feel offended if you directly reject their proposal. You will have to find other « more diplomatic » ways of expressing your opinion, implying more creative and imaginative solutions.
Expression of emotions
Expressing one’s emotions is rather well admitted in the professional context, especially from women.
Talking about the king, the royal family and religion is not recommended in public and in private circles.
Always give an object with your right hand.
Modes of thinking
Intuition et global view
Very intuitive, they quickly understand their prospect’s behaviours and expectations. They can easily adapt themselves to western way of thinking. Their global view allows them to anticipate future developments for their country, which they express in a very enthusiastic way sometimes shadowing analytical mind. They need new infrastructures and technologies, they admit the necessity of new mentalities (entrepreneurial spirit) to tackle the huge economical challenges and to become the entry door to Africa and to Europe (e.g. : logistics).
Moroccan time management is flexible and depends largely on the context in which an event takes place : family, social, public or professional. As traffic jams are part of the daily urban life, mainly in Casablanca, some interviews (e.g.in the media) can take place by phone or by skype. It is important to get informed, in advance and undirectly, of the necessity to arrive on time at an appointment, it can differ from one company (corporate culture and individual values of the manager) to another. Confirm your appointment in a clear and tactful message (e.g. « as scheduled in our agendas, I will be in your office from 9 to 10 AM as I will attend another meeting afterwards »). Remain patient and flexible but firm and decided.
As Moroccans trust and refer to in-groups they belong to (e.g. families, family lineages, organisations, etc.), being introduced by local
export agencies or commercial intermediaries come as a piece of evidence to penetrate Moroccan market. It could also take place in a more informal way, through a Moroccan you spent a good
moment with during your holidays, asking him if he knows people from the sector you are interested in.
Networking is the way to build business in Morocco, for a win-win partnership, exchanging favors establishes the cement of trust between
you and your partner. He can also challenge the value of your own network. The presentation of the offer and the negotiation of the prices often take place during the same meeting. It is very
common for a Moroccan to get accompanied by a few members of his family or by members of his organisation who assist him during this decisive meeting. Make sure of the good faith of your
partner as many people may interfer at the different levels of the business process.
Ask for a local assistance to comply with your administrative formalities, e.g. your Moroccan counterpart’s driver or his office worker
can fulfill these tasks for you.
Power relationships and masculinity
Hierarchy is very important, positions of high responsibility inspire respect and fear. These positions are mainly held by men. As public and private organisations are usually ruled in a pyramidal way, important decisions including signing up of contracts must be agreed upon by the top management. Therefore, it is not surprising to notice that long awaiting files are suddenly freed because instructions have been given from high ranking officials (e.g. a Minister, a CEO,…). What is urgent for you differ from their vision of urgency.
Sustainable and authentic business relationship
Creating a partnership in Morocco needs time as it implies getting involved in the relationship and showing interest in your future partner’s daily interests, motivations or cultural background. These signs of respect are highly appreciated to build a trustworthy business relationship. You can leverage your differences, bridging your personal, management, and cultural style with the specific style of your partner. You can make sure you know yourself enough to be able to adapt your own style to your future partner’s ; hence setting up the foundations of a sustainable and more authentic business relationship.