The Chinese place great emphasis on personal relationships. Individual Chinese decision-makers have their inner circle. Decision-makers are persuaded if their peers are persuaded.
Americans decision-makers emphasize personal relationships less. They listen closely to their internal experts. But also to their most trusted colleagues (“kitchen cabinet”).
How Americans make decisions is often unclear to the Chinese. Their approach appears to be driven by both hierarchy and consensus. It is not clear to Chinese who is in the “kitchen cabinet”. Who should we attempt to persuade and how?
Americans know Chinese decision-making is driven by several factors. Hierarchy is an important factor, but not the only one. It is difficult to understand is who, when and how to approach peers.
Advice to Americans
Have a peer introduce you to the person who is to be persuaded. For that introduction, a peer is more effective than a superior. If introduced by a superior, the person will pretend to be persuaded. But this approach will not gain authentic trust and acceptance.
So, do the research. Know the situation and background of the person to be persuaded. Try to “put yourself in their shoes.” Then approach and persuade the decision-maker’s peers. After that be introduced to the decision-maker.
Advice to Chinese
Yes, gain the acceptance of the decision-maker’s inner circle. At least from some of them. But be very careful who you contact, when and how. Be fully transparent. You could be seen as conspiring with the decision-maker’s peers.