80 Level Research team seeks to explore the best practices in Japanese B2B that would help you develop trusted relationships with partners and improve its market reputation.
Art by: Michael Yoshimura
Quality is a religion.
- Quality is the most important indicator of a product or service.
- The Japanese are proud of the high-quality work they do. Work is considered one of the most important things in life.
- The Japanese believe that a certain price should be equal to the quality of a product or service.
Provide successful cases and ready-made scenarios
- Japanese will only accept foreign things if they're very highly valued and accredited. Mention the awards your company has won and get testimonials from renowned professionals in the field.
- Point out the uniqueness and competitiveness of pitched products or services.
- Showing past cases is important: Mention similar experiences that you and your company had.
Understand that building connections and negotiations takes time
- Japanese are very cautious with new people. It takes a long time to earn trust and build up working relationships.
- It’s a common experience for foreigners to feel like they’ve grown close to someone only to discover that Japanese don’t feel the same, and there is actually an insurmountable gap.
- The negotiation process is very long and difficult. Many people from Japanese companies are involved, and all of them have to come to an agreement. A reply to an email can take weeks.
Slowly but surely
- Japanese tend to work slowly, which has to be considered when setting deadlines. Things will take much more time than in the West or other Asian countries.
- All processes in Japanese companies are very methodical and analytical. The planning is also meticulous. Japanese thoroughly follow rules, manuals, and established procedures.
- Everything has to be strictly monitored. There’s an entire system of checks on every organizational level.
- Time isn’t a priority. Nothing will be released until it meets the highest quality standards and company’s goals.
Waterfall rather than Agile
- Japanese are inclined to use the Waterfall project management approach rather than Agile. Project steps are approached in a sequential fashion, completing one task before beginning the next. One thing at a time. The emphasis is on promptness and good organization over flexibility.
Keep your distance
- Traditionally, Japanese organizations have a fixed hierarchical, multilayered structure, where the ideal distance between a boss and a subordinate is high.
- In Japan, top-down management and top-down production are most common. The system is nowhere near as flat as it can be in the West.
Speak with the right people
- Find a keyman to address: Dive into the decision-making processes in the industry and identify people’s areas of expertise and their position in the company's hierarchy.
- A common mistake is trying to ignore the chain of command, so to speak, and directly communicating with people in the wrong order.
Show respect to those “above you”
- You shouldn’t forget to be especially respectful when talking to people “above you”: Consider their seniority, age, years at the company, their control over budgets, and people with different values.
- A successful way to interact with people is by being incredibly formal.
- In office conference rooms, people take seats depending on their status. The closer to the door, the lower the status.
- Avoid speaking negatively and having any prejudice towards Japan, even in a light conversation. Concepts that align with Western ideals don’t necessarily align with Japanese ideals.
In order to see all 9 tips to be successful in Japan:
- Now You’re Talking!
- It’s All About Connections
- Trust Is the Key To Strong Long-term Relationships
- Drop the “Know-it-All” Attitude
- One Misstep and the Game Is Over
- Bonus Tips about Culture Peculiarities in Japan