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Can You Close a Deal in Japan?

For sales professionals accustomed the casual business culture of the United States, Japan presents unusual problems. While it's easy to memorize a list of "DOs and DON'Ts" the subtleties of business interactions are more difficult. Here's a quick way to test whether you "get" the difference between selling in the U.S. and selling in Japan.

Scenario: You're developing a sales opportunity in Japan and, for reasons outside your control, you need to close the deal NOW. Which of the three responses below would be considered, in Japan, a "hard sell" tactic:

  • CLOSE #1: "What do we need to do for you to make a decision today?"
  • CLOSE #2: "Are you interested in buying option one or option two?"
  • CLOSE #3: "I think we are all in agreement that it makes sense for us to investigate moving forward with some future planning. May I suggest that we set up another planning meeting, with the understanding that, as my company assigns resources, we may need a partial purchase order prior to the next meeting?"

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For sales professionals accustomed the casual business culture of the United States, Japan presents unusual problems. While it's easy to memorize a list of "DOs and DON'Ts" the subtleties of business interactions are more difficult. Here's a quick way to test whether you "get" the difference between selling in the U.S. and selling in Japan.

Scenario: You're developing a sales opportunity in Japan and, for reasons outside your control, you need to close the deal NOW. Which of the three responses below would be considered, in Japan, a "hard sell" tactic:

  • CLOSE #1: "What do we need to do for you to make a decision today?"
  • CLOSE #2: "Are you interested in buying option one or option two?"
  • CLOSE #3: "I think we are all in agreement that it makes sense for us to investigate moving forward with some future planning. May I suggest that we set up another planning meeting, with the understanding that, as my company assigns resources, we may need a partial purchase order prior to the next meeting?"

The correct answer is CLOSE #3!

The mere fact that you're trying to close the deal based upon your own outside circumstances is already pushing the edge of business ettiquette. Under the circumstances, Close #3 is a hard sell, but it might actually work... if you're very lucky.

What about CLOSE #1 and CLOSE #2? In Japan, those are closes -- those are unpardonable breaches of courtesy, which will probably result in the end of all contact between your two firms.

BTW, I got the scenario and "closes" above from internationalist Jim Holden, author of the bestseller World Class Selling.

READERS: If you're Japanese, could you please weigh in on this? Because frankly, I have no way of knowing whether Holden's analysis of the situation is correct or no.

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