Doing business in Japan information
by Venture Japan
The Japanese market is an incredible market for corporate products and services, in part because Japanese companies are still prepared to pay premiums for quality, reliability and service. Understanding Japanese corporate sales will allow you to do very profitable business with Japan's largest corporations; in my experience some of the most profitable business you can do anywhere in the world.
2 or 3 decades ago, when those infamous myths of doing business in Japan first emerged, Japanese business culture must have seemed impenetrable and the barriers to Japanese business must have appeared higher than Mount Fuji! Fortunately for foreign companies entering the Japanese market in 2004, the protracted recession of the 1990s and the explosion of communications and IT technologies in Japan in the past 10 years, have dramatically changed the business climate in Japan for foreign companies entering the Japanese market. The changes have made it a lot simpler for those foreign companies that understand Japan's business culture to successfully do business in Japan, and especially to do substantial and very profitable business with major Japanese companies.
So how do sales to Japanese companies differ from sales to companies in the US or Europe? These are some of my thoughts after 13 years of doing business in Japan - much of which has been corporate sales involving traveling around the country, meeting, presenting, negotiating and closing contracts face-to-face with many of Japan's largest and best-known companies.
Japanese sales technique often seems very old-fashioned and full of unnecessary ceremony to US and European businesspeople used to doing much of their business electronically. In many ways, the Japanese sales process reflects the importance of personal service in the Japanese culture and can be very people and time intensive. The prices of most products and services are high in Japan compared to the US or Europe and those extra margins allow Japanese companies to continue people intensive sales activities which would be impractical on the much slimmer margins typical elsewhere. Discount stores (and Japan's famous "100 Yen" stores) have become very popular in the past 15 years and traditional department stores have correspondingly faced huge problems, but at heart Japan remains a service-oriented society, the extremely service-oriented "mom-and-pop" businesses continue to dominate and customers are still content to pay a premium (albeit a reduced premium) for that personal service.
To understand just how people, time and service intensive sales to a Japanese company can be, lets look in detail at the traditional sales process to a larger Japanese company:
In 2004, despite 99.99% of Japanese executives and managers having mobile phones, regularly using e-mail and being more directly accessible than ever before, almost all Japanese salespeople still do the majority of their sales in the foregoing traditional manner.
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