Well having spent quite a bit of time doing business with the Americans and having had my share of wins and losses thought I would try and put in some pointers about how to do business with the yanks. Love to also hear viewpoints from others out there.
Your relationship is not unique. Americans while not as process driven as the chinese or singaporeans are not as chaotic as the Indians. While we always feel that every deal is unique and hence its not uncommon for indian companies to draw up fresh contracts for every business relationship, americans would rather work with standard contracts and templates. What this means is that it is in your interest to fit into their standard engagement models. Study in advance what each agreement commits each side to give and receive. If you are going beyond the scope of the agreement, my sugggestion would be to start with a single agreement and start the relationship before seeing what else can be done with the same organization. What will end up happening is that you will probably realize that a single relationship is most lucrative or else the partner company will ask you to enter into another relationship governed by a completely new set of agreements, gives-takes and of course different people.
Do what you say you will do. Don't over or under promise. This is the one quality that will give you the respect of american executives. The biggest and best part of corporate america is that everyone is accountable. The commitments you give, end up becoming a small or large part of the CEO's own commitments to the Board and hence if you do do what you say you will do, it means he would have exceeded his commitments as most people would buffer and hence you would pretty much be his blue eyed boy. As it should be, a steady partner is valued much more than a mercurial one.
Be clear this is a business relationship. Americans are very good at switching off their business mind as soon as the day ends and are very genuine in their personal interactions. I say this because in an Indian context going out for a few drinks with possible business partners is categorized as business and not pleasure while an american taking you out for drinks – he's having a good time and expects you too to let your hair down.
Communicate regularly and with detailed reports. This is really really key. You will not be able to rease memories of the six months you were incognito by surfacing one fine day with a big order for the company. Demand periodic conference calls and dedicate one person from your organization to generating reports in a format that the Americans would want. Demand similar reports from them.
Plan in advance. No matter what we like to believe, the Americans are running global businesses. While Indian international businessmen are generally internationally travelled businessmen. This is not the case with America. The CEO of a Fortune 1000 company with customers in 100+ countries might not have visited more than 10 countries outside the United States. Its just not normal for the CEO of an American company to take off and travel for 15 days a month. They are already traveling a lot to meet their family (you'll be surprised how many of C level execs live and work in different cities doing the weekly commute), meet potential investors, major strategic partners and analysts (wall street). They really dont have the time to fly down to india to meet that customer that will place that 1mn USD order that is crucial for you to meet you targets. Hence, if you do need them to travel, plan well in advance and its better to work with other major partners to see how it can be clubbed as part of a global roadshow or customer meets to ensure better time utilization.
Try and get rid of preconcieved notions about the Americans and their knowledge of the world, their ability to understand technology, the reasons behind 9-11 etc. They actually might suprise you!!
Numbers, numbers, numbers – drill down everything that is expected from you into numbers and whatever you expect from them into numbers. This is really crucial. This will be the only thing that is measured later in the day.
Hope this helped, look forward to hearing other views!!