Manage episode 371619047 series 2952524
When we meet the buyer in Japan, it will be extremely rare that they are the final decision-maker. Usually, there are other people sitting behind the meeting room wall, who will have an interest in any changes or new initiatives. A collective decision will be reached about whether or not they will proceed with you. Japan likes this splitting of the authority because if things go bad, the blame gets spread far and wide and people feel better protected. “We are all responsible, so no one is responsible” type of logic. This means that our contact is going to be the messenger to the rest of the group and our job is to help them make a sterling effort promoting our idea.
Normally we are concentrating on extolling the benefits of our solution for the business and we focus in right there in our explanation. Of course we have to do this otherwise there will be little point in the buyer using us. We should also not neglect to find out what success would mean for the buyer individually. This is rather more complicated in Japan than in the West. Most expat multi-national executives will tell me “I will get a big bonus” or “I will get a big promotion” or something very specific about their own glorious career. Japanese executives don’t talk about themselves. They will say things like “the team will be happy” or “the company will benefit”. We shouldn’t take those types of answers verbatim. That is just typical Japanese modesty. We have to think about how we can help them advance in their career and to marshal a success for the firm.
The nenko joretsu (年功序列) escalator system of staged career progression, based on age and years in the company is starting to break down. Even the peak industry body the Keidanren has recognised that individuals should be promoted based on ability rather than age and stage. This means that where once upon a time the individual buyer had little prospect of being recognised for a successful initiative, that situation is changing. We can play a role here to make them look like a hero inside their organisation.
All the usual caveats apply. Hearing their issues, we have to decide about whether what we can offer in solution terms will genuinely improve their firm’s results. Just selling a deal, to sell a deal, is desperate activity. It means you are failing and now flailing at any hint of getting a deal done, regardless of the consequences for that firm, based on what you are suggesting. This type of salesperson is the one who ruins it for everyone else. We should only suggest solutions which will actually help the buyer and if we can’t do that, then we shouldn’t sell them anything. Now this is easier said than done, when the sales manager is breathing down you neck threatening you with termination unless you make your monthly or quarterly sales quota.
Maybe you shouldn’t be in sales? If you cannot become a professional, then please leave and go get another job and leave the sales industry to the rest of us who are committed to doing the right thing by our clients. When we personalise the buyer and try to make them the hero, we are taking on responsibility for their career now. That is a heavy weight and we have to make sure that we boost their career, as a result of us becoming a trusted partner. They are going to go to bat for us in the internal meetings as the decision is walked around throughout the impacted sections. We have to make sure we give them the watertight guarantees about the quality which we will deliver and that we are there to fix any issues which may arise. We cannot airily hand these off to the customer service people because we have made that strong personal commitment to the buyer and we have to back up our promises.
When we meet others in the company, we need to praise our buyer, especially to his or her superiors in the organisation. I don’t mean meaningless praise, which sounds like flattery. The key to giving anyone praise is that it must have a strong kernel of obvious truth in it and it must reference something which can be proven. Instead of saying, “Tanaka san is doing a good job”, we can say “Tanaka san’s coordination of this project has been very effective and we really appreciate the way he takes care of even the smallest details. It really helps us a lot”. This has to be true of course and that is where the line is drawn between flattery and praise.
When we make our buyer the hero we have to back them up from our side. We have to deliver what we said, on time, on budget and at the required quality. We are building a lifetime relationships with the people in this organisation and we have to make a key goal. Burning your contact inside the organisation is guaranteed that you can never work with this buyer ever again. Our buyer is going to bat for us and we support that buyer at every step along the way, especially when problems arise. Often our own internal systems will try and subvert this effort, but we have to prevail and protect our buyer’s position inside their own company. Make them the hero and protect them right through the sale and beyond.