Selling around the world

Selling in Japan - 3 success factors

Adjusting your business and communication skills to fit the country you are preparing to expand your market to is a key component in your success, and while some things take time to learn, there are others which you can easily understand and implement. So check out our three tips on selling in Japan!

selling in Japan
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1 – The art of respect

While respect in many places is something that we express in a mostly intuitive manner, not over-analyzing our partner or the situation itself, in Japan it does require a certain amount of attention and reflection. The art of respect is taken to a whole other level in Japan, and it is enough to only think about the act of bowing for example, to get a quick glimpse of how complex and important respect is in the Japanese society. There are three levels of bowing: Eshaku, Keirei, and Saikeirei, indicating three levels of respect. The higher the respect for the partner, the deeper the bow itself. These things are to be taken very seriously, and if you are preparing to expand your business, and sell in Japan, you have to educate yourself on the Japanese respect, and be willing to act accordingly.

2 – Think long term

Japan is a very long-term oriented country. This means that if you are used to instant gratification, you have to really adjust your business and personal motivations as well, and with these, your communication and the way you present your business and product also. As a result of the Confucian tradition, long-term thinking and the values associated with it define how people relate to doing business. When you present your product, and you propose a collaboration, make sure you are not focusing on things on the surface, but you have a clear vision of the future, and show that you are willing to work on and for it. Persistence and perseverance are of great value here, and if you show these traits, and also build your presentation and offer around them, you are on track.

3 – Hierarchy and decision making

Just as respect, hierarchy is also taken to a whole new level in Japan. You have to be aware of the roles and positions in a company, and act accordingly. This is one context where respect becomes very important: the three levels of bowing usually relate to different hierarchical positions and levels of seniority. However, this doesn’t mean that decisions at company level are made by one person, who is in top position. To the contrary, the Japanese always work towards consensus on all levels, and this is best represented by the special decision making process, ringiseido: if an idea or plan still has to be accepted, it is first offered in written form to all management levels. At each level the person in senior position has to either accept, deny or abstain from the idea, and the process is repeated on all levels until final consensus is reached. So as you can see, hierarchy and respect are strongly related to decision making, and as a foreigner you should fully understand this dynamic and your place in it when selling in Japan.

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