Can Friendlier Communication Improve Profits?
Japanese organizations and their employees wanting to increase profitable growth globally should learn to communicate in a friendlier, clearer, and more persuasive way so that their non-Japanese customers and partners feel they are receiving the highest value solutions. Globally, sales and marketing can be improved by asking more questions to find needs in each customer region and segment, and using an explicit, positive style that shows unique benefits and solutions. Companies can sell at more profitable prices when they clearly and persuasively explain why their solutions are uniquely valuable. Also adopting a friendlier style can facilitate communication, avoid misunderstandings, and build trust so that information can be exchanged earlier and more effectively.
How We Show Respect Differs by Culture
Many Japanese are careful to try to create trust, partly because they take responsibility toward others seriously, and partly because their default unspoken goal in business is often to create long term win-win relationships. Much Japanese business is driven by personal introductions and recommendations. Also, there is a tradition of treating customers with respect, even if the deal may not be a repeatable one. Globally in the Internet age, online reputations reinforce the benefit of these behaviors, but the way of showing respect in global business is to be an expert consultant to customers, to check their needs in a friendly and clear way, and to be reliable in providing just the kind of high quality product or service they want and need. The values can be the same as in Japan, but the way of showing them may need to change.
There are many benefits for Japanese to be more Low Context (clear, comprehensive and logical) in their marketing and sales, including 1. leveraging their relationships with happy customers, 2. making promises about their high levels of service, and 3. showing the highest ROI (return on investment) for their products.
Current Clients Can Bring New Ones
Firstly, considering how hard they work for customer satisfaction, Japanese companies should do more to show testimonials and ask for referrals from satisfied customers as part of their marketing activities. Salespeople in Japan are often reluctant to ask clients for this, but when done properly, it can be a win-win promotion for both businesses if B2B. In the case of B2C, suitable extra rewards for this engagement can be offered. Marketing needs to persuade sales managers to support this activity by showing how much sales may increase. This means not just considering how much more quickly positively reviewed goods are bought online, but also actually calculating sales percentage increases. It means making it easier to help systematically by creating one successful example as a template, and a process to engage clients, including an interview template. Companies should talk about the positive global promotion that the client may receive.
Service Has a Measurable Value
Secondly, many Japanese salespeople will work for a client as they would for themselves, including offering free consulting, problem solving, and services in order to ensure high customer satisfaction. This high quality and high value service is rarely explained to new clients, even though it can greatly increase the financial benefits of choosing a Japanese supplier over a different global company. In contrast, many global companies’ business model is to sell the product cheaply and extract profit from service repairs and customization. Showing comparative case studies with ballpark (or rough) figures and assumptions would greatly help clients to understand how they can make more money and have a better experience by buying Japanese style service together with the product.
Clients with whom I have spoken have been concerned about over-promising because their service levels are lower overseas due to lack of local expertise. They are also concerned about decreasing profits due to the high cost of supporting clients from Japan. However, if part of their company philosophy is to provide high quality service, then a plan to train local staff and jointly provide service to local clients whilst also delivering on-the-job training surely makes sense. In fact, since many Japanese B2B companies provide custom services and are good at helping clients mix their new offering with their existing technology, there is a good case for building their business development strategy in new markets by selling services (such as repairs and consulting) first to clients with rival products who have been abandoned by their global suppliers, and then selling their own products once they understand client needs and have proven their skills and high service level.
People Buy Because of ROI (Return on Investment)
Thirdly, the products need to be shown in a Low Context way with clear comparisons with competitors, demonstrating that over a specified time frame, there will be higher value at a lower cost. For example, for both consumer products and B2B offerings, higher quality means products will last longer and need less expensive replacements or repairs. If products are B2B and part of a client company’s value chain, such as machine tools, then companies can also show how the value of uninterrupted high quality production results in lower factory costs (less down time), lower end-client support costs dealing with quality issues, and a higher brand value. All this can be shown in back-of-envelope (rough) calculations in discussions about clients’ typical operations, so that those clients appreciate the higher value and see the Japanese product, which may have a higher cost initially, as a better medium-term or long-term investment.
In summary, Japanese companies and staff can increase their sales and profits if they communicate in a clearer and persuasive more way by being more Low Context and Socratic. They should tell the world what’s unique and valuable about their products, service, and organization, inquire in detail about clients’ and partners’ needs, as well as internal stakeholders needs, and negotiate perfect solutions. Internally, changing to more open communication to improve global teamwork, engagement, and employment periods will also reduce employee turnover.
Jon James Lynch is the founder of J-Global, which provides organizations in Japan with training in the J-Global method, a powerful new framework of mindsets and skills for managing, working and communicating more effectively in an international environment.
Jon has decades of experience in Japan consulting for business leaders and facilitating training sessions and workshops. In his partnership with the Nikkei Group during the past 5 years, he has expanded his reach to hundreds of leading Japanese and multinational companies.
This article was originally posted on Link Global Solution’s website.