Japanese market is quite different to what Western businesspeople are used to when it comes to marketing and customer service. In fact, when you begin analyzing local legislations and cultures, you’ll realize every market is pretty unique in one way or another.
Marketing is ultimately about driving sales and this is not something unique to the Japanese market. However, the process can be quite different. B2B sales and marketing in Japan happen during networking events. This is what most Western brands entering Japan call “complexities of Japanese sales process.” They often ask:
- What do we need to take into consideration when organizing a drink party after a networking event?
- Why does it take a long time for Japanese businesspeople to make a decision?
- Why should we follow what other businesses in Japan are doing?
Fair questions but they’re not easy to answer unless we first talk about the Japanese culture; what truly influences the way Japanese people do business.
In order to do business in Japan and build commercial relationships with Japanese managers and directors, one needs to know the Japanese culture very well. Without deep cultural knowledge, it can be rather difficult to work in Japan, let alone run a successful business.
In case you’re planning to establish commercial relationships with businesses in Japan, you may find the following tips and tactics handy.
What do we need to take into consideration when organizing a drink party after a networking event?
Businesses in Japan always go about organzing networking events without actually asking “what” we need to take into consideration. As you expect it comes to them naturally; but it’s a real and genuine question for expats and businesses outside Japan.
In Japan, businesses organize drinking parties to communicate with each other directly and in person. Generally speaking, most Japanese people are timid and don’t put their opinion across as straight as the Germans, for example. In different words, they usually beat around the bush. So, having a conversation over alcohol can sometimes help to avoid “beating around the bush” and get to the point straightaway.
You may want to know that millennials often go too far with this, and their bosses are overly concerned about the consequences. Hence, they make sure senior managers attend the drinking parties after a networking event.
Having said that, the drinking party culture (after a business event) is somehow changing. You need to get to know the senior decision makers and involve them upon your planning. They’ll tell you in what settings they’d feel more comfortable and who will be representing them. So, put trust well ahead of thinking how to organize a drinking party after my networking event. Your purpose matters the most to Japanese businesspeople.
Why does it take a long time for Japanese businesspeople to make a decision?
Some Japanese businesspeople may disagree with this and we totally understand why. Things happen with different pace in different societies. This may not be directly linked to culture as such but more connected management and leadership techniques; which somehow derive from culture. It might be true that sometimes a manger takes his or her time to make a decision, but they always get back to people who contacted them; this the cultural aspects of Japanese management and leadership style.
Japanese managers begin by reviewing the proposals they receive and make a consensus decision. They care about the value of a potential collaboration or partnership as opposed to personal interests or putting connections above business interests.
It’s worth mentioning that reaching out to the most senior level positions in a Japanese company can be difficult. The chances of bypassing the mid-level management is slim. If you can’t persuade the mid-level management team to proceed with your proposal, you may have to find a convincing argument. Transparency and clarity of your proposal can open doors for you. Anything other than that, will just earn you a polite rejection reply.
Thus, make sure you fully understand:
- The needs and requirements of the company that you’re reaching out to
- Your proposal doesn’t consume much time of the person in charge
- Create priority as opposed to setting up urgency
Then, you’re more likely to pass the first hurdle and make it to the next stage; meeting with senior management team and decision makers. Also remember that “electronic signature” is not yet popular amongst the Japanese businesses. So, don’t try to send a proposal with a contract attached. This will immediately shut the doors in your face.
Why should we follow what other businesses in Japan are doing?
It’s absolutely normal for a business to strive for novelty and being seen as a change agent. Following other businesses is ordinary, which business wants to be known as ordinary?!
Nevertheless, following what other businesses are doing in Japan would help you remain in business. It prevents loss but not necessarily making the competition any easier.
You’ll be happy to hear that the overall corporate culture across most Japanese businesses is the same. So, you don’t have to worry about any complexities or major challenges; if you do your homework to familiarize yourself with the Japanese business culture and management style. You need to build rapport with the managers who you’re dealing with. They need to trust you!
Last but not least
As evident above, there are certain differences between Japanese and Western business culture and corporate communications. Therefore, prior to strategy preparation and planning to do business with a Japanese business, it’s inevitable for you to learn about the Japanese culture and the language if you can.
Of course, you can always use translation services but you need to be able to communicate every important factor across and overcome all the obstacles upon delivering your sales and marketing localization plan. It needs to be in a conventional style for the Japanese businesspeople.
Over to you
Do you have any questions for us? Or perhaps you’d like to share your thoughts and experience about the sales and marketing in Japan. Please use the comment section below to share your your views and opinion.