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THE Sales Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Updated 4 days ago

Business
Management
Entrepreneurship
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THE Sales Japan Series is powered by with great content from the accumulated wisdom of 100 plus years of Dale Carnegie Training. The show is hosted in Tokyo by Dr. Greg Story, President of Dale Carnegie Training Japan and is for those highly motivated students of sales, who want to be the best in their business field.

Read more

THE Sales Japan Series is powered by with great content from the accumulated wisdom of 100 plus years of Dale Carnegie Training. The show is hosted in Tokyo by Dr. Greg Story, President of Dale Carnegie Training Japan and is for those highly motivated students of sales, who want to be the best in their business field.

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Cover image of THE Sales Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

THE Sales Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Latest release on Sep 15, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 4 days ago

Rank #1: 131: Emotional Selling

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Emotional Selling

“We buy based on emotion and justify with logic”.  We have probably all heard that before, but when we are selling what do we do about it in practice?  Actually, we spend the vast majority of our sales interview time with the client, focusing on the logic bit.  If we are hopeless as a salesperson, then we are pitching the product straight away, with absolutely no idea what the client actually needs.  Nevertheless, the pitch is constructed on a logical basis, going through the nitty gritty of what we do and what it entails.  If we have a clue, we ask questions to uncover client need. Again we are immersed in a world of logic.  We are asking intelligent questions to get to the facts.  So where is the emotion part in this sea of logic?

Building rapport and trust with the client is an emotional idea.  Of course, there is a logic component around talking about business relevant topics, rather than spending all of our time rehashing the football game played on the weekend.  We are business focused. The way we are business focused though, is to impart we can be trusted.  We are appealing to the emotional side of the buyer.  The way we speak and what we say are important, to build a connection with the client.  We are warm, considerate, charming. We ask questions to get them talking, as we know this usually relaxes our interlocutor.  We look for connections to build the trust, be it shared educational experiences around the school brand or similar faculties where we studied.  We look for common hometown or similar residential experiences, mutual friends, colleagues or acquaintances.

When I worked at the Shinsei Bank, I was to brief a newly hired  section head on what my section did.  He ignored all of that and started a process of divining who we knew in common.  We spent the whole time talking about other people we knew and he never did find out what my section did.  But this was his way of building trust and rapport, and he went for the emotional rather than rational approach.  Spending all of our time on this with the buyer would be too much, but establishing something in common is important and is constructed through emotional triggers.

Another prime place for emotion is when presenting the solution to align it with the clients needs.  It is fine to go through the benefits, the application of the benefits, provide evidence and head into a trail close, but it doesn’t have to be all logic.  When we talk about the application of the benefit, we can look for emotional anchor pieces which will resonate with the buyer.  This is where storytelling is powerful because it allows us to paint a word picture that outlines how people felt or will feel, as a result of buying our widget.  

Yes, the spec part will be dry, but we should be aiming for a more human touch in the “application of the benefit” part of the solution presentation.  For example, a new faster internet connection can talk about a lot of logical, technical stuff to do with IT. We can also talk about results. What that increase in speed does for our team and their clients.  

We could mention, “We know that 5G will increase connection speeds by 100 times.  The power of this will make video calls unbelievably powerful.  The client can see your every facial expression change and can hear the tone of your voice emphasing key words.  This will be in real time with fantastic screen clarity and connection stability.  

This will create a supreme personalisation of business being done remotely.  This is new, it hasn’t been possible until now.  With this level of engagement, you will feel so close, like you can almost reach out and touch them. The typical cold tyranny of distance will be replaced with warmth and familiarity.  Imagine the power of seeing each other smiling, laughing and engaging in real time.  For highly valued existing clients, this will open the door to more agreements signed, no travel time lost and no loss of the personal touch”.

In this example, we are trying to focus on the human interaction component of the increased connectivity speeds and not just on the tech of how this is made possible. We are moving the discussion to the outcomes the technology provides and not just focusing on the spec detail of how it does that.

We can also extend the emotional bridge to how happy the team will be with the new arrangements.  “Your team is going to feel a new lease of life.  They will start striding around the office with increased confidence and purpose, because now they can reach many, many more clients everyday, more than was ever thought possible.  They can now reach them with a very high level of human touch, even though they are connecting remotely.  As the deals roll in and their commissions get paid out, you will see that look of pride and satisfaction in their faces.  A new energy will become felt, optimism will replace doubt, negativity and fear.  Success builds further success and now the 5 G flood gates have been opened”.

We are focusing on how people will feel, what it will do for their emotions, and levels of engagement, motivation and success.  We are putting the human face to the tech and we are projecting beyond the technical installation, to the outcomes, the results.

In a world brimming with logic, we can forget the power of emotion to move people. The key is to tie that emotional aspect, emanating from the results of the decision to buy, to the impact it has on the people and on the results of the business.

Apr 30 2019

15mins

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Rank #2: 136: Customer Service - Problems and Solutions

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Customer Service: Problems and Solutions

Things go wrong.  Deliveries don’t turn up or are incorrect.  Dates and deadlines are missed.  The quality promised doesn’t eventuate or live up to the promise. Internal communication isn’t working well so the coordination of the delivery of the service is confused.  One part of the organisation oversells the deal and the other bit cannot deliver on the inflated promises.  Customers complain.  Japanese customers in particular, really complain.  Most of this society is rather muted but they let it all hang out, when they are unhappy about some service or product delivery gone wrong.

PRIDE is the problem.  This is an acronym for the usual five suspects causing the issues.

  1. Process

This is the accumulation of how the organisation has divined how to best operate. This involves communication and aligning the features and value of the product or service with customer expectations. 

  1. Roles

Who does what in the organisation?  This includes agreement on tasks and responsibilities and holding people accountable to these. Japan is genius at making sure no one takes responsibility for anything.  The consensus decision making system means we are all responsible, so none of us are individually responsible.

  1. Interpersonal issues

How well do the customer service personnel get along with each other and with other departments.  This includes such things as attitude, teamwork and loyalty.  Marketing hates sales, sales is hated by the back office, everyone hates IT.  Because mistakes are so seriously frowned upon in Japan, everyone tries their hardest to shift the blame elsewhere.  This leads to internal feuds, strife, vendettas and internal guerrilla warfare.

  1. Direction

How the organisation defines and communicates the overall and departmental vision, mission and values is critical. Japan is curious in that those at the bottom can quite wilfully ignore what those at the top want to happen, if they don’t agree with it.  Poor performance and not following direction won’t get you fired in Japan, so in a way, the troops are in constant state of rebellion.  Senior management imagine that middle management is making sure everyone is on board with the direction of the company.  Not true. The “what” is communicated and the “how” is worked out, but the “why” has often gone missing in action.

  1. External pressure

The resources available to the customer service department such as time and money can be insufficient.  There may or may not be capacity to control your own destiny.

Okay, so what can do about all of this PRIDE coming before a fall?  We need to get consensus and collaboration about solving the issue.  We begin by involving people from each section to form a project team to look at the root causes of the issues.  Putting a band aid on the wound doesn’t deal with why the wound was there in the first place.

We craft a statement of the problem.  We need to define exactly what is the issue we want to deal with.  There may be a lot of noise surrounding the problem, but we need to cut through to the essence.  Having identified what the issue is we now need to look for the drivers, the causes.  We need to trace back to the source of the problem.  If that is not forthcoming then that tells us that our systems are weak and unclear.  Using brainstorming techniques we now look at possible solutions we could apply.  There are no dumb ideas at this stage and no evaluation taking place.  We want to be awash with ideas and we will sort them out in the next step.  Taking the ideas, we attach priorities to them, to isolate out which ideas are the strongest.

We now attach names, milestones, budgets, evaluations, etc. to the plan, to put the solution in place. We monitor it and make changes where needed.  We need excellent communication about what is happening.  We need to make sure the key people are involved and that everyone is committed to fixing the issues.

Despite all of this excellent planning, future issues will arise. We have to be vigilant and ensure that we can take quick action, employing this system immediately.  Making modifications on the way through is way better than having to build everything from scratch.  Keep this template handy and roll it out whenever major incidents pop up.  We never lack for challenges in business so there will always be plenty of scope for refining our skills through opportunities to practice.

Jun 04 2019

19mins

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Rank #3: 179: Managing A Sales Team In Covid-19 Lockdown

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Managing A Sales Team In Covid-19 Lockdown

Farmers and hunters in your sales team represent a type of harmony in peacetime.  But Covid-19 has us all on a war footing and that balance needs to be looked at.  Isolation of sales staff at home allows farmers to hibernate.  There is nothing happening and they just sit around in their pyjamas, going through the motions, waiting it out, expecting the clouds to pass and the sun to emerge.  Of course, they expect to be paid their base salary, despite the tumultuous times. 

Hunters come into their own, because they understand what it means to be proactive, to shake the tree and make things happen.  We can’t just ignore them though, leaving them to their own devices and concentrate on the farmers.  Everyone needs to be managed in their own way.  This is the point – a lot more hands on management is needed, a lot more checking in and checking up, needs to be occupying the sales manager’s  daily activities.

Time management, scheduling regular meetings, frequent reporting sessions become the higher priority items.  If there is a big enough list of To Dos on everyone’s calendar for the day, then things will happen.  The start of the week needs to set the strategy for the week.  Who will be doing what, what will be the reporting frequency, how will Key Activity Indicators be tracked – all need to be clear and confirmed with everyone.

The daily cadence of contact between the sale’s manager and the team needs to be set.  Some of these will be group on-line huddles at the start and the end of the day.  Other contact will be one-on-one.  This means the amount of manager communication time with the team goes through the roof.  If you are a player-manager, that will complicate life quite a bit.  Your own selling time is substantially diminished, because you need to be driving the team sales process more than in peacetime.  That is one of the costs of doing business in lockdown and the adjustment needs to be factored in.

Clients are in lockdown too, so the playing field is level.  If your rivals are not as well organised as you are, then there is a golden opportunity to steal a march on them.  Even if buyers are not buying, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be engaged in sales conversations.  Often buyers are operating from a scarcity mind set that blinds them to opportunity. 

Their needs have changed and they may not be aware of that.  You may have multiple solutions, some of which can be activated right now for the client, but they didn’t know that about you.  We often get into very linear conversations with our clients. We can have trouble getting them to look at the full range of what we can do for them.  They have put us into a very narrow box of possibilities. This might be the chance for the sales manager to direct the team to rectify that mighty wrong.

When leading farmers, this is the time to make sure they are getting in touch with existing clients and finding out if there are things from your line-up of solutions, which may be of assistance in this particular set of Covid-19 circumstances.  They need daily client contact goals and these need to be checked up on at the end of each day.

For your hunters, this is the time to make sure they go hard to contact the non-clients.  The chances are high that your competitors are sitting around at home in their pyjamas doing very little.  The gate keepers may not be able to block your hunters making contact with decision makers, because the bosses are either at the office or at home and are undefended.  This needs a strategy session with the hunters, to determine what the approach will be for each case and then getting busy executing that strategy.  The sale’s manager needs to keep requiring daily reports on their progress – who has been contacted, how many could be spoken with, what was the reaction, etc.  All of this is valuable data has to be fed into further refinement of the strategy.

There is a lot more micro managing needed in business war time and sale’s managers need to make that adjustment, if they want to see any selling being done.  Nothing is easy or simple, but so what.  Time to get busy leading.

Free Live On Line Stress Management Sessions

On a separate note, we are running public Live On Line Stress Management classes, which will be free to all attendees on April 16th (Japanese) and 17th (English).  We are also offering the same thing as an in-house programme, delivered Live On Line for our existing clients and for prospective clients.  This allows us to help our clients and our community.

The registration process for these free stress management sessions is being offered on our website, so please go to this specific page: http://bit.ly/dale_stress_e

Mar 31 2020

12mins

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Rank #4: 123: Your Price Is Too High - Your Reply Is?

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"Your Price Is Too High" - Your Reply Is?

When your client hits you with 'your price is too high" what do you say? Are you flustered, wondering how to reply?  Is your brain freaking out, as you flash possible answers through your mind.  Or are you straight off the blocks and into an argument with the buyer?  Are you telling them why it is not too high and why they are wrong, wrong, wrong? By the way, how is that working out for you so far?

Rule number one is don't be stupid. That means don’t argue with the buyer. Because the “your price is too high” comment immediately triggers a chemical reaction in our brain, we have to short circuit what is going on and regain control.  To do that we need to have a circuit breaker, like we have in our houses if there is an electricity overload.  We have this so that we don’t burn down our house.  Same with sales, we don’t want to burn down the deal. 

We insert a cushion. This is a non-descript sentence that neither inflames the disagreement with the buyer nor agrees with what they are saying.  It would sound like this, “yes, budgeting is important in all businesses”.  In the few seconds it takes us to say that sentence we don’t allow ourselves to kick off an argument with the buyer about why their comment is totally flawed, incorrect, ludicrous and ridiculous.  It gives us enough breathing time to remember how a professional handles objections from clients.  After they tell us our price is too high, we very softly ask “why do you say that?”.

This pushing back process is like reading a newspaper. We see a controversial headline splashed across the front page. It grabs our attention. But to really understand what the headline is saying, we need to read the accompanying article. That is where the detail is and we need to know it before we know how to answer their objection.   Our combativeness with the headline is pointless.  We need to know is their pushback just plain wrong, because they don’t have the correct facts?  Or wrong because they have misinterpreted something we have said?  Or is it correct?  Our price may in fact be too high for the current value it brings to their business in their mind.

We have no idea of how to answer “your price is too high”, until we have more information.  Here is the professional’s next step, after we have discovered the reason behind their statement – we keep digging for other issues. We park the first one and move into asking, “apart from X are there any other concerns you have?”.  Objections are also a bit mysterious because the client may not be giving us their primary concern upfront. There may be a hidden objection we don't know about and we merrily go about answering the first objection and wonder why they didn't buy. There was a bigger problem, but they didn't share it and we didn't ask. Always ask.

After they give you the second objection, ask if there are any other concerns. Keep doing this around three to four times maximum. “Are X, Y and Z then your major concerns or is there another?”  We have to dig these out before we even attempt to answer any objections from the buyer.  Once we have them out then ask for some guidance on which of the three or four is the most problematic for them.  “You have mentioned X,Y and Z as issues for you.  Of these three which one do you feel is the most pressing?”   It is very important to stop speaking at this point.  Don’t add anything or qualify anything.  The question leaves a certain amount of tension in the air, but let it hang there, don’t relieve the tension by saying anything further.  If you have another person with you, tell them before the meeting that when you ask a question and it creates tension with the buyer to sit there and shut up.  Don’t release the tension. 

We need to hear from them, so that we can concentrate our efforts answering their key concern. Once we know what that concern is, then we bring all our weight to bear on the value we provide with our rationale, statistics, data, testimonials, evidence, proof, etc. to show why the price is just fine and dandy.

Usually, once we have answered the ley concern the minor concerns drop away.  If we have done all of this and they still don’t want to proceed, then it means there is still a hidden issue we need to surface, so we can deal with it.

If we haven’t done a good job of building the trust, the client may be reluctant to tell what they are really thinking.  This reinforces the importance of the sales cycle to build trust first, ask brilliant questions to uncover needs, tailor the solution to exactly the key points they have raised before we ask for the order.

Mar 05 2019

12mins

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Rank #5: 153: The 80-20 Rule Of Selling

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The 80/20 Rule Of Selling

We are all familiar with the 80/20 Pareto Principle, where 20% of buyers account for 80% of the sales and 20% of the salespeople, account for 80% of the revenue.  There is another 80/20 split which we need to adhere to.  This refers to the amount of time we are speaking relative to the buyer.  Salespeople love to talk.  They love to dominate the airwaves and through strength of will and determination subdue the client and make them buy. This is total nonsense.

Okay you may not be that bad, but if we taped your sales call and did an analysis of how much time you spoke compared to the buyer what would we find?  I will guess that it will be getting close the 80% number.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  In Japan, the buyer’s expectation is that buyer and seller have clear and specific roles.  The salesperson’s job is to give their pitch and the buyer’s job is to rip it to shreds.  This requires that the salesperson launch straight into describing their widget and all the things that are great about it.  The buyer then trounces all those arguments with why it isn’t suitable or is too expensive or is out of doubtful quality.

So the pitchpeople do all the talking and then get torn to bits by the buyer.  The salespeople only describe their solution, when they know what the buyer needs.  Prior to that they are very circumspect about what they say.  Yes, they will indulge in some small talk at the beginning to build the trust with the buyer.  After that though they will go rather quiet.  They will ask questions about the business and how it is going. Or they may start with asking the buyer where they would like the business to be in a few years time.  The intention is to discover the gap in results.  This is where the listening part becomes very important, especially listening with the eyes.  Matching words with body language must be a developed skill in salespeople and in the ability to read the buyer.

Unsurprisingly, not every buyer wants to trot out all the dirty laundry on the firms failing to someone who just walked in off the street and who they hardly know.  So what we will be told is often just the top of the iceberg and the real problems are hidden below the waterline.  Our job is to find out what are the real problems and then mentally confirm whether we have a solution for their problem.  To do this we have to dig a bit deeper into the issues with simple questions that will get us to heart of the matter.

We may have to add in some explanation of why we want to know.  This type of assurance that they can trust us doesn’t have to be a retelling of our life story or of the firm glorious history.  We may just simply and concisely state, “We have a broad range of solutions which have worked for our clients.  Maybe, one of these solutions will also work for your firm.  I have no idea, however if you will allow me to better understand the core issues facing your business, I will be able to tell you if we can help or not”.  This is a very disarming conversation.  The key is to once having run through this reasoning, to sit there and SHUT UP.  Don’t explain further, don’t add, don’t comment, don’t say a word.  We must allow time for the buyer to digest what we have just said and allow them to make the decision they are prepared to trust us enough, to tell us what is really going wrong.

Even when we get to the solution provision point of the conversation we have to be careful we don’t start letting our mouth run off without control.  As we explain certain elements of the features, benefits, application of the benefits and provide the evidence where this has worked before, we need to be careful.  We have to stop at various points and check for buyer understanding and agreement that this is a viable solution. The tendency is to get lost in the detail and spend a huge amount of time thereafter dealing with objections and pushback.  It is much better to flush these out along the way.  In order to do that we have to learn to let the buyer make some comments on what we have said and switch the balance back to 80/20.

We are all guilty of talking too much, me included.  Whenever I hear I am doing all the talking, I realise I have flipped the 80/20 balance and I need to ask a question to get them talking again. It is time for me to be silent and regroup.   If we keep an ear open during the conversation and if we hear too much of our mellifluous voice we know something is wrong.  Stop what we are doing and have that 80/20 rule at the forefront of our focus.  We will definitely make more sales and have happier customers when we do that.

Oct 02 2019

13mins

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Rank #6: 75: Totally Ineffective Sales

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Totally Ineffective Sales

The phone rings and a magazine wants to interview me for a series where they feature companies located in suburb of Minato-ku, in central Tokyo. I had never heard of this magazine, but am always grateful for any media exposure, so I say “Yes” to the interview. The date and time are fixed. One twist to the interview was that it would involve an interview by a Japanese actor, who I had never heard of. Fine, because what do I care, as long as the media exposure is there, I don’t care how they do things.

So the cameraman, the actor and the journalist all turn up and away we go. It turned out the actor didn’t ask me any questions at all, but was primarily there for the photo opportunity. The journalist was actually conducting the interview. The cameraman and actor depart and I am now getting an explanation on the magazine from the journalist. Despite what was written on his business card, it soon becomes apparent that the journalist was actually the sales guy.

Well we are straight into the details of the pages of the ads in the magazine and the different configurations. Ad sizes, locations, colour, black and white, pricing etc. This takes some time to go through and I am sitting there thinking to myself, “Is this guy going to ask me any questions? Is he going to explore where the gaps are in our marketing? Who is the primary audience we want to reach? What are the issues we are facing?”.

Now fascinatingly, these areas did come up in the interview phase, as I outlined some of the things I wanted for the firm and where I felt we were being challenged. Did he follow up on any of these leads or plumb them for more information and greater depth? No. He just ploughed straight into the features of the magazine.

I asked him how long he had been in sales and he told me 18 years and had been with this one company his whole career. It was obvious he had never received any sales training in that time with his employer. Here is the immense irony. He is here in my office calling on the President of a corporate training company, that specialises in soft skills training in the areas of sales, leadership, communication and presentations. We teach sales! He had no professional sales skills.

It was also obvious during the interview, that no research had been done on our business or on me. Given I thought this was a media interview, I was not perturbed by that, because they were here to ask me a bunch of questions for the article. Once I realized this was a sales call, I thought that is pretty poor preparation on the part of this sales guy. He could have done a very simple search on us, checked out our YouTube channel, looked at my LinkedIn profile, looked at my Facebook, checked me and the company out on Google search. He could have come to the meeting well armed, to engage me in the buying process. He had done nothing.

Being a patient, generous soul, I went to the rack of flyers and brochures and pulled out the Japanese version of Sales Advantage, an eight week course we teach on selling. I then proceeded to explain to him about the sales cycle. Research the buyer prior to meeting, gain trust, explore client needs, tailor the solution to those needs, deal with any hesitations or concerns, ask for the order and do the follow up. No rocket science here but there are a lot of very effective structures present in the training for each part of the cycle.

I particularly pointed out that he asked me no questions at all, but proceeded to try and sell me a solution, when he had no idea what I needed. That just cannot work because it is madness and yet this is the shtick of so many salespeople everywhere around the world not just in Japan.

Until he knows what I want, he shouldn’t even be bringing up solutions. I told him to keep his magazine and price list on the chair next to him, well out of sight of the buyer. Don’t even refer to the details, until you know which details will be relevant. All that should happen first is to build the trust through gaining some rapport. This can easily be based on information uncovered in the pre-meeting research. I am a traditional Shitoryu Karate 6th Dan and that is fairly unique for a foreigner in Japan. He could have engaged me on sports, because he was pretty big guy himself and maybe a sportsman as well. If he had been a rugby player (he had that type of size), we could have talked about my Brisbane Broncos hometown rugby team. The possibilities of creating something in common are endless. He did nothing.

After establishing rapport, we need to ask well designed questions to uncover the needs. Only then get involved with the solution. That magazine had many pages and many possibilities, but he should only have been directing my attention to the few areas where I have the strongest need. I don't need a tour of the magazine, we are all time poor and he should be sensitive to that. He should only show me the areas which are going to light up my strongest interest. I also suggested he get out a pen and use that as a pointer, to again direct the buyer’s attention to only those parts of the page which are most relevant. A page is crowded with information and the sales person’s job is to isolate out the most compelling sections and only concentrate on those. Exclude the rest because it is a distraction from the main message.

I now started selling him on our sales training course! The terrible part was at the end when he asked me for $500 for a tiny little paragraph, with a black and white photo, in the rear of the magazine. I said “No”. He then told me, he had explained over the phone that there was a $500 charge involved with the interview for the space in the magazine.

Well I don’t recall that part of the conversation, perhaps because he was speaking so fast when we were discussing the meeting over the phone and the phone line clarity wasn’t the best. This was when I also realised this was a bait and switch technique to get sales. They sell you on doing the media interview but the real purpose is to sell ad space.

I stuck with my “No” to the $500, even though it wasn’t a huge amount. I wasn’t being mean. I was trying to educate this 18 year veteran of sales about selling. Going to his boss and explaining why they has spent money on the actor and the cameraman and had come away with no result would be an unpleasant conversation, but I thought it may cause him to reflect on his poor skills. Will that be the case. I hope so but I doubt it!

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Apr 03 2018

14mins

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Rank #7: 121 When Is The Best Time To Call A Prospect In Japan

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When Is The Best Time To Call A Prospect In Japan?

Japan is merciless with salespeople.  When you call the client’s company everyone is doing their absolute best to make sure you don’t get to talk to the boss.  They won’t tell you their name, they don’t offer the take a message for you, the whole vibe is “get lost”.  If you don’t know the precise name of the person you want to speak with, then the wall of steel descends very quickly.  They will question you as to why you want to speak to the person in charge, tell you that that person will call you back.  They never will.

No one wants to take any responsibility in the Japanese system, so that is why they won’t share their name.  They don’t want to get scolded by the boss, so that is why they won’t put you through. The boss is a salaried employee and they won’t take calls from people they have never heard of.  They don’t think, “this might be a business opportunity that will help my company”.  They think, “I don’t want to have to deal with people I don’t know, especially foreigners, because it is risky”.  Risk aversion is a big thing here and the easiest way of never taking a risk is never doing anything new or different.  It has worked for thousands of years here.

So how do we break through the steel barrier.  Many companies have meetings on Monday mornings, so invariably no one is around to take the call, even presuming you know their name.  The last day of  the month is also a very busy day for many companies, so that is another hard one. Days with a five in the date called gotoobi(5th, 10th,15th, 25th)  are also busy days in Japan because they are cut off dates for invoice submissions, monthly invoice payments, salary payments, Government department submission dates, etc.

If we want to call a company and we don’t know the person’s name, then we should try and do it before the gate keepers arrive for work or after they have left for lunch or for after they have departed at the end of the day.  This is not fool proof, but the chances of talking with someone with a bit more authority goes up.

Those tasked with taking general calls to the company or section, are usually female, young and at the very, very bottom of the hierarchy with no authority, except to make your life a misery.  Companies don’t understand that these staff are the bearers of the brand to the outside world, so invariably they are not properly trained.  They think their job is to screen out all salespeople and all unknowns.

I called the new President of a major Italian brand here in Tokyo to say hello and thank him for his business, as we had been commissioned by his headquarters to provide training for them.  I didn’t know his name because he had just arrived and that information was not public at that point.  I could never get past the gatekeeper.  She would always tell me he wasn’t available and that he would call me back. That never happened.  I am the President of the company delivering training for his company, to develop his business, to help hit his targets.  You would expect he would want to talk with me.  No such luck.  In the end, I got so frustrated, I just gave up trying to talk to him and left the training delivery logistics to my staff.  I never did meet him in fact and he has probably been posted to a new country by now.

Here are some ideas. Even if you don’t know the name of the person send a package to their title within the company.  If you do even better. This package might contain your company brochure or a small gift, but whatever it is, preferably make it slightly bulky to excite curiosity. Then, when you call asking for them, mention to the gatekeeper that you want to follow up on the package you recently have sent to them. 

That package, by the way, will probably go straight into the waste paper bin sitting next to their desk, unread, possibly unopened, because they don’t know who you are.  This “send the package then call” technique will slightly increase your chances of getting put through. 

Try to make the call before 9.00am, after lunch at around 1.10pm and again after 6.00pm.  The junior people will usually arrive around 9.00am or 9.30am.  They will have to man the phones from 12.00pm while all the important people go to lunch. This means you have a slightly better chance of talking to the boss when they are back from lunch and the junior person is not there.  Companies are more concerned these days about junior, non-manager staff working overtime, so the junior people will be gone after 5.00pm or 5.30pm. The managers however are still there.  Obviously the same considerations apply if you know the person’s name. Your chances of connecting will go up.

If you have met them before, you can say that you are calling to follow on with them on that recent conversation you had.  Or you are calling to follow up on that email that you have sent them.  Or that you are calling to get an answer to your question in the email you sent to them.  More senior staff will generally recognize you have a business connection established and are more likely to put you through.

Why don’t they ever call you back?  They recognize you are trying to sell them something and that means making a change in the supply arrangements.  Change triggers a lot of requirement for internal harmonisation of a new supplier choice. They have to get the hankoseals stamped on the submission they will have to circulate to all those effected by the new decision.  It will also probably require individual meetings with certain key people to secure agreement.  It is a lot less work, trouble, time loss and risk to just ignore you in the first place.

Yes, you can get through but it is not easy. You need to try some tactics to make it possible.  Have these issues in mind before you reach for the phone.  This will save you a lot of frustration and lost time.

Feb 19 2019

11mins

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Rank #8: 152: How To Disagree But Still Keep Your Customer

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How To Disagree But Still Keep Your Customer

The Customer is King.  How do you say “no” to the King?  In ancient times, if you said “no” to the King, you would lose your head.  Keep your head - learn how to say “no” to the King in the modern era.  It is even worse in Japan because the customer isn’t King, the customer here is God! However, the customer is not always right.  Sometimes they are being unreasonable or they are requesting things which are beyond our scope to fulfill.  There are times when we have to say “no” to the customer and not accept their demands.  How do we disagree with the customer and still maintain our good relationship?

We need to practice some self-awareness first. Are there certain words or phrases, that cause a strong negative reaction within us?  If we know that when we hear words like “that is impossible” or “that is nonsense” and it triggers a strong defensive attitude inside us, we need to recognize that fact so we can control our reaction.  We need to stop the release of fight or flight chemicals and allow the brain to take over.

When we hear something from the customer we know is going to be a problem or trouble, we must stop ourselves from wanting to respond immediately. We need to firstly consider why we believe the opposite of what they say to be true.  We have a different opinion, but why is that?  What do we think, why do we think that, what is the evidence to support our viewpoint?  We have to accept that we might be wrong and the customer is correct, rather than just disregarding the customer’s opinion, because we haven’t thought of that possibility before or we haven’t done that procedure before.

Here are 6 rules for disagreeing agreeably with customers:

  1. Give The Benefit Of The Doubt

Give the customer the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are right and we are wrong?  Don’t just reject what they say out if hand.

  1. Really Listen

Listen and really try and understand why they hold that opinion. We also want to feedback that we have heard what they have said and that we are genuinely trying to see things from their point of view.

  1. Stay Calm

We have to commit to react unemotionally.  We need to stay very calm, no matter how upset or angry the customer becomes.

  1. Use A Cushion

We use a cushion to give ourselves thinking time.

  1. No “Buts”

We eliminate words like “but”, “however’ from our responses and we replace them with the word “and”.

  1. Provide Context

We respond by telling a short story that delivers the context of why we believe what we believe.  We don’t go into providing the evidence of our beliefs without first providing the context. 

We need to use a story to tell the background that led us to the belief that we hold to be true or which we consider to be the best option.  Only after delivering the context as a story, do we state our opinion.  If we state our opinion immediately, the customer will reject it because they don’t have any context against which to judge whether what we are saying is reasonable or not.

For example, if the customer was very unhappy about the delivery time not being the next day, we need to give them some context as to why we can’t do it the next day.

Context

We might say something like this, as we tell the story:

“I was talking to Suzuki san in our HR division the other day at our headquarters.

He told me that delivery issues have become quite a topic in Japan. He said the number of young people has halved in the last twenty years and that the projections are that they will halve again over the next forty years. 

This is going to have a big impact on all industries in Japan.  He said, it means that young people are going to be in short supply. 

We see it already because jobs like delivery drivers are becoming harder to fill. He told me it now taken us three times as long as it used to, to hire people for these jobs. 

He said it is a nightmare if they leave because it takes many months to replace them. 

Every industry will start to suffer these same problems but the delivery sector is feeling the problem right now.  Amazon has created a lot of pressure on the delivery sector.

They are being forced to move away from same day or next day delivery as a result, because the delivery teams can’t take the pressure due to understaffing”.

Having told that short story, we have provided context as to why we also can’t maintain the same delivery systems as in the past and the customer is more likely to understand our situation and accept what we are proposing.

Recommendation

At this point, we would say,

 “We really want to maintain the same delivery timings as before, but frankly the change in Japan’s demographics is now making all of us accept we need to factor in longer delivery times.  Please be understanding of our position, we have no choice any more”.

If we just said we can’t do it, we could easily get into an argument with the customer about how they believe we are going to have to do it, whether we like it or not. 

We can avoid that type of response if we follow the six steps.  So thinking about the likely situations that come up in your business, how will you apply what your learnt today in your daily work? Thinking back was there any situation where you provided context through a story for explaining why you couldn’t do what the customer wanted? How did it go? If it went well, then what were the success factors that you can apply to other situations? If it didn’t go well, what can you do to improve your delivery?

Action Steps

  1. Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
  2. Really Listen
  3. Stay Calm
  4. Use A Cushion
  5. No “Buts”
  6. Provide Context

Sep 24 2019

12mins

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Rank #9: 147: Why We Mess Up Customer Service

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Why We Mess Up Customer Service

Poor customer service really irritates us.  When we bump into it, we feel betrayed by the fIrm.  We have paid our money over and we expect excellent customer service to come with the good or service attached to it.  We don’t see the processes as separate.  In this Age of Distraction, people’s time has become compressed.  They are on the internet through their hand held devices pretty much permanently.  We all seem to have less time thaN before so we become cross if things from the internet don’t load or load too slowly. If we have to wait we don’t like it, regardless of what the circumstance.  We are perpetually impatient.  Here is a deadly breeding ground for customer dissatisfaction.

There are five elements usually driving customer unhappiness with us.

  1. Process

We need processes to run our organisations on a daily basis.  This includes how we communicate and align the features and value of the offering with the customer’s expectations.  In constant drives for great efficiencies, we tend to mould the processes to suit the organisation’s needs, in prefer to the customers.  Japan is a classic in having staff run the business based on what is in the manual.  If a decision requires any flexibility, this is usually dismissed because the staff only do what the manual says.  As the customer, we often want things at the odds with the manual or we want something that diverges from what the manual says.

Take a look at your own procedures.  Are there areas where you can allow the staff to exercise their own judgment?  Can you empower them to solve the customer’s problem, regardless of what is in the manual. Our processes often become covered in barnacles over the years and from tine to time we need to scrape them off and re-examine why we insist things can only be done in this way.

  1. Roles

Who does what in the organisation.  This includes agreement on tasks and responsibilities and holding people accountable to these. Japanese staff, in my experience, want their accountabilities very precisely specified and preferably to be made as tiny as possible.  They are scared of making a mistake and being held accountable if things go wrong. They have learnt that the best way of doing that is to become as small a target as possible. 

The usual role split works well, but what happens when people leave, are off sick or away on holiday?  This is when things go awry.  Covering absent colleagues requires flexibility and this is not a well developed muscle in Japan.  What usually happens is everything is held in abeyance until the responsible person turns up again.  Customers don’t respect those timelines and they imagine that everyone working for the firm is responsible for the service rather than only the absent colleague. We need a strong culture of we pick up the fallen sword and go to battle to help our customer, if we are the only person around.  This is particularly the case with temp staff.  They are often answering phone calls or dealing with drop in visitors and they need to be trained on being flexible and fixing the customer issue.

  1. Interpersonal Issues

How customer service personnel get along with each other and other departments is key. This includes such things as attitude, teamwork and loyalty.  Sales overselling and over promising customers drives the back office team crazy.  They have to fulfil the order and it is usually in a time frame that puts tons of pressure on the team.  This is how we get the break down of trust and animosity reigning inside the machine.  This leads to a lack of communication and delivery sequences can get derailed. When colleagues are angry, they tend not to answer the customer’s phone call as sweetly as we might hope.  We need to be careful to balance out these contradictions and have protocols in place where we can minimise the damage. What are your protocols and does everyone know and adhere to them.  Now would be a good time to check up on that situation.

  1. Direction

How the organisation defines and communicates the overall and departmental vision, mission and values is key.  This is the glue.  We need this when things are not going according to plan.  When we grant people the freedom to uphold all of these highfalutin words in the vision statement with their independent actions, then we introduce the needed flexibility to satisfy clients.  Are your people able to take these guiding statements issued from on high and then turn them into solutions for clients?

  1. External Pressures

The resources available to the customer service departments such as time and money become critical to solving customer issues.  How much control do we give to the people on the front line to solve problems for our customers?  Often we weight them down with rules, regulations and procedures, which make them inflexible.  Check how much freedom you have granted to your team to fix a problem for a client? You may find that during the last recession you wound that whole process in very tight and forgot to loosen it off, after times got better.

We need to get under the waterline and check for a build up of barnacles impeding our customer service provision.  Scrape them off wherever you find them and have a steady routine to always take a look and see what has built up over time.  Invariably you will find something that can be removed or streamlined, that the customer will appreciate.  Remember, if you can do this and your rivals can’t or don’t, that is a big advantage in the customer satisfaction stakes.

Aug 20 2019

13mins

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Rank #10: 173: Dealing With Buyers Who Won't Reveal Their Problems

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Dealing With Buyers Who Won’t Reveal Their Problem

The basics of professional selling requires good questioning skills on the part of the salesperson.  We understand the buyer need and then we match that need with our solution.  Pretty straight forward stuff really.  What do we do though when the buyer won’t reveal their real issues or are hiding the problem from us?  This is a deal killer right there because you have no where to go.  In desperation you start pitching your solution in the faint hope lightening strikes and you chance upon exactly what they need.

When we analyse the reasons for this buyer smoke and mirrors we can see a couple of factors at work.  In the initial rapport building phase of the sales call, we failed to establish sufficient trust for the buyer to impart their woes to us.  We may have assumed too much about their level of interest and just started banging away, interrogating them about all the dirty laundry of their company.  Japan is pretty good at small talk in the early minutes of the meeting.  This is not going to help us much though, because it doesn’t address the trust issue to any great extent.

We need to be looking for connections with the buyer such as shared experiences or people we know in common.  Maybe we have the same alma mater or have lived in the same city or travelled to the same places or share the same hobby.  We should use the start of the meeting to try and ascertain if we have anything in common.  Familiarity breeds comfort in this case.

We also need to establish our credibility from the get go.  Our Credibility Statement has some layers.  We explain our company’s business in very broad terms.  Next we provide an example of where we have helped another similar company, quoting some verifiable data points around results as evidence.  We make the suggestion that “maybe” we could do the same for them.  It is important that we say “maybe”, because the client doesn’t want to be given any hard sell.  Finally, we ask their permission to ask questions in a way which makes it hard to refuse.  How do we do that?

For example, “Buyer san, I have a bit of a dilemma facing me.  As you know we have been delivering training around the world for the last 108 years and 58 years here in Japan.  As you might expect we have developed a huge curriculum as a result.  If I can get a hint of what would be of help to you, mentally, I will pinpoint only those parts of our curriculum which are the most relevant and of the highest value for you.  I know your time is very valuable, so I don’t want to waste it.  In order for me to do that, would you mind if I asked a few questions to see if we have something which may be of use to you?”.

Having established our credibility, we now begin structuring our questions in such a way that the buyer is inclined to give us an honest answer, rather than trying to hide from our enquiry.  We project the buyer into the future, say three to five years ahead, about what would success look like for the firm at that time.  This makes it easy for the client to answer because it is all aspiration, rather than any hard facts about the company.  Now we ask them, “Given these are the goals for the company, can I get some idea of how you see the current market, particularly in relation to your competitors.  How do you think you are doing against them?”.  The focus is not on company secrets, but a comparison with their rivals and how they are doing.  This is easy to answer.  Once we have the “As Is” and their “Should Be” information, we ask a simple question.  “I understand where you want the firm to go and where you are now, so may I ask you what has been slowing you down to bridge that gap?”.  This will bring out some of the hurdles using this Barrier Question. 

Finally we ask about what is in it for them if they are successful in reaching those goals. “I read recently that even the Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, is advocating that companies get rid of the old system of everyone getting the exact same annual wage increases and instead start basing the rewards and promotions on performance.  It sounds like leaders are going to be held more accountable for results than in the past.  If you were able to make your targets, given this new environment, what would success mean for you personally?”

By asking these pointed questions in this way we make them disarming and easier to answer.  The key is to build trust at the start, establish our credibility and get permission to ask questions.  Once we have that we draw the answers out of the buyer in a very indirect way, which is hard to resist.  The other component is that this whole communication piece must be practiced and polished, so that we can deliver it is a very mild non-threatening manner to relax the buyer.  If we do that, our opportunities to cement a relationship with this firm increase dramatically.

Feb 18 2020

13mins

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Rank #11: 9: The Sales Valley Of Death

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The Sales Valley of Death

Sales cannot run like a manufacturing production line. We are not making industrial cheese here. This is more like an artisanal pursuit, closer to art than science. Yet, every sales force on the planet has targets which are usually uniform. Each month, the sales team has to deliver a specified amount of revenue, rolling up into a pre-determined annual target. The construct may be logical, but sales is far from logical, as it is steeped in emotion, luck and magic.

Having said that though, sales is also a numbers game and to some extent pseudo-scientific. There are accepted algorithms which apply. You call a certain number of people, speak to a lesser number, meet a few and from that residual group, you conclude an agreement. There are ratios, which when calculated over time, apply as averages linking activity with results. So we call 100 people, speak to 80, see 20, strike a deal with 5. In this construct, to make one sale, on average we need to call 20 people.

With this type of precision available, you would think that we could industrialise the sales process and confidently set annual targets, neatly divided into units of 12, to arrive at a consistent steam of revenue achievement. Sales managers would be multi-tasking, sipping their afternoon martinis, propping their cowboy boots on the desk and carefully calculating their next car upgrade, as the sales team obligingly track to the revenue plan.

Sadly, it doesn't work like this. Sales flow without rhyme or reason, some months exceeding the target and other months missing it completely. Some sales colleagues are precociously consistent producers and others are annoyingly unpredictable and some are just annoying because they don’t seem to be doing much at all. Why is there this perplexing inability to automate the production of results? The valley of sales death is the problem.

This is the plunge between sales peaks. It is the lull in the fighting, the quiet before the storm, the brief interlude in the phony war of sales. Sales people work hard, usually because they are on commission structures which guarantee not very much if you don’t produce. Japan is a little different - basically here it is either a base and commission or straight salary and bonus system. Few sales people in Japan are on 100% commission. Why? Because they don’t have to and the Japanese preference for risk aversion means forget it! Nevertheless, they know they have to produce, so they tend to be diligent.

Commission structures vary but many “industrial structures” specify that you have to hit a monthly or quarterly target before your commission kicks in. If this is too industrial, it may fail to take into account seasonal downturns, because each target unit is the same throughout the year. This is hardly motivating and probably needs a bit more nuance around expectations and reality.

Sales people cannot be consistently successful unless they have two great professional skills. They must be machine-like time managers and they must also be highly disciplined. The two interlock. The ebb and flow of sales is based around customer activity. Networking, cold calling, following up with previous clients, chasing leads which come through marketing activities etc., all of this takes considerable time.

If we pump out enough client contact activity we will get appointments, sales and therefore generate follow up. Time starts to disappear from the mining activities that made us active in the first place. We can’t do the prospecting work, because we are too busy executing the follow up. Once the fog of being busy clears though, we suddenly see that we have a very pitiful pipeline ahead of us. So we work like a demon again to kick start generating new leads.

Downturns in activity lead to massive holes in revenue. This is the Sales Valley of Death. It is the messy counter point to industrial sales production, which is consistent, predictable, uniform, and when graphed for boss presentations, is beautifully shaped, balanced and ascetically pleasing to upper management.

To avoid this valley phenomenon, we need to make time to keep prospecting every week. Hence the requirement for excellent time management skills and the discipline to make sure we are doing it every single week. Otherwise, we find our time for pipeline development is stolen away by client demands, emergencies, mistake correction, more detailed discussions and results follow up with the buyer.

Sales people who do not block out time in their diaries for prospecting everyday will be Death Valley dwellers in short order. They will be joined there by those who don’t plan their day in detail. That means planning the necessary activities with numbered action priorities. Winging it, being “spontaneous”, living in the moment unshackled from schedules are all delusional activities which cannot be part a successful sales life.

If we don’t wish to enter the Sales Valley of Death, we must block time for prospecting and craft a carefully prioritised daily To Do list. Failure here is permanent, because the consistency of production will elude us forever. We will get lost in the harsh environment of the valley and perish by the wayside bleached bones in the sand.

Let’s commit to build the pipeline every day and avoid the Sales Valley of Death at all costs.

Action Steps

  1. Adjust sales team targets to account for seasonality of sales to keep motivation high
  2. Know your sales activity ratios required to produce sales revenues
  3. Become a maniac about good time management and self discipline
  4. Protect time in the schedule for doing prospecting each week

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcast “THE Leadership Japan Series”, he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Dec 27 2016

10mins

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Rank #12: 117: How To Handle We Are Happy With Our Current Supplier

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How To Handle “We Are Happy With Our Current Supplier” Pushback

Japan loves the Devil they know over the Angel they don’t know.  Change here is hard to achieve in any field, because of the inbuilt fear of mistakes and failure.  This country takes risk aversion to the highest heights in business.  There are no rewards for salaried employees to take risk.   There are massive career downsides though, if things go wrong, due to an initiative they introduced.  Personal accountability is not very popular here.

The decision-making system here is also a nightmare in this regard.  Who is the decision-maker?  Probably no single person.   The meeting we attend may have one to three people present in the room, but they are the tip of the iceberg.  An iceberg we will never get to meet by the way.  Behind the walls of the office, sit their other colleagues who will have to sign off and agree on the change. 

The checks and balances of Japanese organisations guarantee a few things.  One is it makes for good communication internally.  No one faces an unpleasant surprise.  I have found most Japanese, as individuals, are not good at dealing with the unexpected.  The sudden emergence of something that had not been previously factored in, has these staff rushing for emergency exits in fear.

The other thing this system supplies is the opportunity for all the vested interests to have their say. Fast action is not viewed as a plus. Reaching a consensus is very important in Japan and people expect to have input into any new arrangements. The piece of paper suggesting the change physically moves around the section head’s desks and each one applies their hankoor stamp to the document, indicating they are okay with the change.  Nothing will happen until all of those stamps are there.

Turning up and finding the buying team are already quite happy with their current supplier, means a lot of work has to be done internally by the people we are meeting, to make a change away from the known and established order.  Who wants more work?  No one in Japan, that is for sure.  When you are dealing with small to middle size firms the supplier arrangements can be even trickier.  They often have a strong owner running the show.  They make a lot of the key decisions and then everyone else does the execution of the decision.  You may not get to meet with the dictator directly.

In many cases, the current supplier company was supplying their grandfather who started the business. Many a good time was had on the golf course, being entertained in the Ginza by geisha and visiting expensive cabaret clubs together in the good old days.  Gifts flowed thick and fast as well, to cement the relationship.  The current generation of the heads of the respective businesses may have been at school together, have marriage links between their two families or belong to special clubs as members.  I see these connections at my very exclusive Rotary Club here in Tokyo.  These are successful families who move in the same circles.  The third generation of family business heads have deep links together built up over the last generations.  Why would they change their trusted supplier to you?

Be it a big corporate or a smaller concern, there are a lot of barriers to change in supplier relationships in Japan.  Frankly, we have few levers at our disposal as a result.  The one thing that companies fear in common though is getting left behind by their competitors.  The globalisation of business has meant these harmonious relationships between supplier and buyer are getting shaken up. 

Just explaining the details, benefits, quality and pricing advantage of the solution you provide are not enough.  We need to lob some dynamite into their current cozy little supplier arrangements, by bringing up their exposure to being blindsided by a competitor.  We need to remind them that the best solution will win in the market or at least reduce their market share.  We need to point out that in a competitive industry, no one cares about the depth of the existing relationships, because they are fully focused on their survival.  Rivals will make key supplier changes and these will trigger changes across the industry, as everyone else has to adjust accordingly.  By getting ahead of the curve, they can win time to adjust and win market share for themselves, vis-à-vis their rivals.

Price and quality differentials only become meaningful in this light in the current market.  Just talking about price or quality in isolation won’t move the buyers to make any changes.  The effort to make new or change supplier arrangements needs a strong reason in Japan or else everyone just defaults to a “do nothing” stance.

This requires we come armed with examples of where a change in supplier arrangements wiped certain companies out.  The best option is relating changes in their industry, but even if we don’t have that, we need to show evidence of how dangerous it can be to avoid change.  The drivers of change are plain to see: globalisation changing supply options, Japan’s declining population driving companies to take desperate measures to stay afloat, technical advances challenging existing business relationships, currency movements impacting pricing, etc.  

We say fear and greed drive behaviour.  Well in Japan, the fear factor is certainly more pronounced than the greed factor, so lead with the downside of non-action rather than the upside of a new initiative. Paint a picture of how the advantages of your solution could become dangerous in the wrong hands, that is to say, their competitors.  Advise them to not give an unfair advantage to their rivals by not making the change today. Express the importance of urgency, the time factor exigency to take action right now. 

We need to do this to drive the imperative of all those characters sitting behind the wall of the office, to get their hanko out and stamp the recommendation, showing their support for it.  The people we are meeting are not the final decision-makers, so we need to arm them with the required nuclear harpoon to break through all the inertia and resistance to change, that is the hallmark of business in Japan. 

Jan 22 2019

17mins

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Rank #13: 140: The Mental Game Of Sales

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The Mental Game Of Sales

There are two players in this mental game of sales.  The buyer and the seller and they are playing with entirely different strategies.  For the buyer, the idea of a salesperson symbolises risk.  Can they trust this person?  Their experience and a variety of media images, have coalesced to ensure buyers are always sceptical about people trying to sell them stuff.  As we say, “We all love to buy, but none of us want to be sold”. 

That is why all that American style hard sell, tricky closes, tie downs etc., fall flat on their face here in Japan.  I enjoy watching Grant Cardone’s sales videos but that aggressive style of selling will never work here in Japan.  Buyers everywhere are cautious when it comes to dealing with salespeople, but ever more so in this country.

Risk aversion is super powerful in Japan.  This is not the country of declaring bankruptcy then making a stunning comeback with your next company.  This is fail once then you disappear forever.  The credibility is gone and with so are you.  There are no second chances in Japan.  This applies inside companies too.  The sizes of the salary packages for Japanese executives would seem a joke in America.  This means that all the way down the line the rewards are not that huge.  The salaries are good but not spectacular.  The upside of taking risks is small and the downside huge so the clear lesson in Japan is “don’t take risks”.

Again, by definition dealing with a new supplier is risky.  The unknown in Japan is fearsome.  The tried and trusted are always preferred over the unfamiliar and untested.  This is us though – the untested, the new seller.  We are always going to be unknown to the buyers at the start.  So as salespeople we begin below the waterline and have to work our way up.  We have to demonstrate to the buyer that we can be trusted.  We can do this by employing referrals from satisfied customers, starting small with some demonstrations, small tests, trial periods, free samples, limited orders etc.  We need to establish a track record that reduces the fears of the buyer about making  mistake.

The mental game on the seller’s part is about confidence.  We are all mainly failing in sales.  We don’t get every order.  We don’t get every appointment.  We get rejected more often than when we get an agreement on a deal. Now Japan is a country of face. Losing face is a big deal here socially, so everyone is hell bent to make sure they don’t get themselves into situations where they will lose face. 

Asking for the order may mean you lose face if they say no.  Ergo, don’t ask for the order.  Just leave the end of the sales call vague and don’t try and close the deal. Walking up to strangers at a networking event and introducing yourself may result in your being rejected and losing face, so better to only talk to the people you already know.  The fact you don’t meet many new people is fine because you didn’t lose face. 

Not asking the buyer any questions and just launching straight into your pitch is fine, because you won’t lose face.  The fact that you are flying blind and have no idea if anything in your pitch is relevant or interesting to the buyer is better than being rejected and losing face. The buyer is God in Japan, so better not to annoy God with any questions.  The upshot of all of this in Japan is that salespeople are very strong with existing buyers and very weak regarding getting new clients.  We hear this all the time from company Presidents. They cannot get their sales teams to focus on expanding the size of the business by finding new buyers.  They don’t want to do cold calling because of the difficulties associated with at.  They don’t like networking, because of the difficulties associated with that too. They don’t ask their existing buyers for referrals because they don’t want to lose face in case the customer says no. The Japanese world in sales is small. 

So when we put these two mental games together, where the supreme sceptic meets the timid, not much happens.  We can’t do too much about the sceptic but we can do a lot with the timid.  We can give them the means to break out and become much more professional in their sales life.  They are woefully undertrained and so are wandering around clueless, just aping what their seniors have been doing.  Here is the bad news. The seniors are also clueless, so it is sad cycle of despair in sales in Japan.

Action Steps

  1. Mentally place yourself in the mind of the buyer with all their fears about salespeople
  2. Definitely ask God, the buyer, for permission to ask questions before you present any solutions
  3. If the buyer says NO, we don’t lose face because the buyer isn’t rejecting us, just our offer, at this time, in this construct, with these terms, in this budget cycle

Jul 06 2019

13mins

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Rank #14: 68: Growing Existing Account Sales

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Growing Existing Account Sales

You call on your client at their downtown office and you are ushered into one of those typical Japanese meeting rooms. The client joins you and together you enjoy a coffee or green tea and chat about the business. The discussion is about the last sale and the possible next sale. It is usually a discussion about more of the same solution though, rather than a broad ranging talk about all the other possibilities available to the buyer.

We all know that it is much cheaper and more effective to sell to an existing client than to run around and find a new one. Knowing this and doing something about it though, are not the same thing. We make a big effort to grow our databases of people we know. The real issue is not so much who we know, as who wants to know us. Think about it. Who amongst your current clients wants to know you?

Existing clients know us, trust us, like us, and will do business with us. We are the problem though because we pigeonhole our clients into existing narrow bands of business and we never realize the full potential of the relationship. We only supply a small part of the range of solutions we have on offer. We only engage with our clients to a certain not complete extent. What can we do about changing that? Obviously whatever we have been doing isn't working particularly well in terms of broadening the sales relationship.

Using an Opportunity Chart we can map our existing business with our clients and we can also map potential business with non-clients. On the “y” axis of a chart we can list the solutions we provide to customers. Each separate line on the “y” axis nominates one of our solutions which we currently sell to buyers. One the “x” axis in each separate column we list up buyers or potential buyers for our range of solutions. Inside the matrix we have created, we can nominate the current state of the relationship. We use the codes A, B and C to differentiate the chance of a sale taking place. “A” indicates they are already buying from me now, “B” indicates there is a good opportunity here to make a sale and “C” indicates there is a marginal chance of making a sale.

This very simple exercise quickly points out a couple of things. It shows that there are new sales opportunities because we have the solution a potential buyer needs. Often they will be in the same industry facing the same problems of our existing clients. The experience we have already gained with that particular industry gives us insight into the key issues and usually the issues are very common. The starting point of our conversation can be very much better informed and more pointed.

If we are making a cold call for example, during the course of that call we might say, “We have been spending a lot of time with people in your industry and they tell us that retention of good staff is becoming more of an issue than it has been in the past. In fact, they are telling us that it is hurting their ability to grow their businesses. We have been able to help them with this issue and it really has made a big difference. If this is an issue in your company, maybe we could do something similar to help you. I am not sure if this is an issue or if we can help but what do you think? Shall we get together and explore if there are any best practices which will be of assistance to you in your company?”.

This Opportunity Chart is a very frustrating idea. It is very annoying to discover that you are only selling a one or two solutions to the existing buyer, when in fact you could be selling a lot more. Why don’t we sell all of the range of solutions we have now? Part of the reason is we get into a groove, where we are comfortable and the buyer is comfortable and we tend to stick with what we have always been doing. Once you start to branch out, more complexity is released. More people inside the company become involved in the decision making process, there will be additional sign-offs required, additional budgets needed, etc.

This same Opportunity Chart works well with “orphan clients”. These are buyers, who for whatever reason, have stopped buying. We are all busy and if a client doesn’t buy we tend to move on to find the next buyer. If there was a change in personnel on the buyer’s side, the existing relationship may have been compromised by the new staff member. Maybe we did it to ourselves when one of our team left and the client was either not followed up, not followed up well enough or the right chemistry wasn’t there between our substitute staff member and the buyer. The Opportunity Chart shows the logic of our ability to serve the client and we should try and reclaim the relationship. It may be that the trail has run cold and any existing rapport has been lost or diminished. That is too bad, but we should just treat the client as if they were a new buyer albeit one we know quite a lot about.

When we are dealing with existing clients we usually have one strong contact inside their company. This is our Champion. They like us, they support us and they continue to buy from us. This is dangerous though because often when they leave we have nothing. We need to be trying to get our Champion to introduce us to other key people in the company, so that we can bullet proof ourselves from being isolated if our Champion leaves.

This means we are asking them to introduce us to other executives or line managers inside the company and to other staff in their section. They can also help us to map the client company hierarchy as well, so that we get picture of the decision-making structure.

One of the frustrations of selling is that the client is like a black box, and apart from knowing our Champion, we have no clue how things are done over there. We need to get our Champion to help us understand the way things work inside their company. When we know this we can strategise which other key people we need to get to know.

As a simple reality check, get out a piece of paper and create the organizational chart of your existing client. It is scary how little we really know. We have been getting sales, we have been busy with the follow-up and we have moved into a relationship rut without knowing it. We have to “make hay while the sun shines” as the old wisdom suggests and have our Champion educate us now. This is much more preferable to finding ourselves in a stage where we have no one supporting us inside the company, once the Champion disappears.

We have so much untapped potential right there in front of us. We can find new business with non-clients, we can find additional business with existing clients, we can start relationships with multiple Champions within the client firm. We haven’t bothered to date doing any of that, because we didn’t have a formula to make it happen or the thought to do it. Now you have both, so go get it!

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Feb 13 2018

13mins

Play

Rank #15: 178: Selling From Your Home Office

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Selling From Your Home Office

Normally we lob up to meet the buyer in their office meeting room.  With the buyer and ourselves now working from home, we have to switch gears on how we interact.  Usually there are a number of people on the buying side for us to meet and there is no reason why we can’t meet them all on-line.  The technology today can handle multiple people in the same virtual meeting.  We should encourage everyone to attend because we want as many on the decision making side to hear our presentation as possible.

It gets a bit tricky though, because other key decision makers are not online in the meeting and we are at the mercy of our champions, to be able to sell our message in the on-line environment.  That means we cannot rely on just the virtual meeting to do the selling for us and we need additional documents to be distributed to everyone involved.  It also means that the entire process slows down because the buyer team may not be confortable or adept at working on-line.

Normally we don’t want the buyer looking at our materials while we are talking during the meeting.  We want them focused on us and what we are saying and this is the same situation.  Don’t use the technology to go into a slide show with your commentary, until you know what they want.  The temptation is to hammer the buyer with as much information as possible during the meeting.  It makes no sense when we are face to face, so the virtual environment doesn’t make a virtue of this approach either.  Ask good questions, wait for answers and don’t feel pressure in the on-line environment to have to keep doing all the talking.  Sometimes there is a delay in the audio and the silence can make us uncomfortable.  Ask your question and then relax and wait for them to answer.  They may be thinking what they want to say.  Don’t cut them off when they are talking or interrupt them on-line, as the technology doesn’t handle this well.  Actually we shouldn’t be doing it in face to face meetings either, but it creates real dissonance when we are all on-line.

In a face to face meeting we can easily go to the relevant materials quickly but on-line there is a bit of potential fumbling around, to get to the right place.  You can bring up the slide deck on-line. The slide you want may be in the middle of the document and so you have to spend some time finding it. Just take your time and don’t feel any pressure for speed.  Just excuse yourself and ask for a minute so you can bring it up.  Buyers understand this is an on-line environment and don’t expect the same fluency from you that you would normally demonstrate with your materials in a face to face meeting.

Because of the impersonal nature of the on-line exchange, make sure to check for understanding with the buyers.  The audio isn’t always reliable, so it makes sense to allow for that and from time to time summarise what you were saying and check that this was clear.  Also, don’t feel pressure to do all the work.  Remember the ratio of buyer to seller should be 80/20 speaking time, so let them do most of the talking. 

They may be flat and operating in a monotone when they are on-line, but we shouldn’t mirror that approach.  Use your energy to add credibility and belief to what you are saying, just as you would in a face to face meeting.  Just be careful about speaking too quickly, because the technology can be unforgiving in these circumstances.  You may need to pace yourself a little more than normal.  Bring your passion though, don’t let that slip.

Remember, for most on-line technology, the person who is speaking becomes full screen.  Get your laptop camera to be at eye height, so the buyers are not getting a great view of your nostrils.  Also make sure you have plenty of light on you in the room.  At home this may require some rearranging of the environment.  You may also have some issues with the background when in shot.  Most of the cameras have quite a wide shot, so a lot of stuff gets picked up on screen.  Go on line by yourself and check how you look and the room looks, before you do anything on-line with buyers.  Some technology allows you to create a virtual background so that the family chaos is not visible.

The secret is to practice before you go on-line.  You may be very comfortable in face to face meetings, but that skill doesn’t necessarily transfer to a virtual sales meeting.  Check your skills handling the technology, the lighting, the arrangements etc., and you can record yourself to see how you come across.  It is a bit like starting our sales careers over again, but this is a different medium and we need to master it.

Free LIVE On Line Stress Management Sessions

On a separate note, we are running public LIVE On Line Stress Management classes, which will be free to all attendees on April 16th (Japanese) and 17th (English).  We are also offering the same thing as an in-house programme, delivered LIVE On Line for our existing clients and for prospective clients.  This allows us to help our clients and our community.

The registration process for these free stress management sessions is being offered on our website, so please go to this specific page: http://bit.ly/dale_stress_e

Mar 24 2020

12mins

Play

Rank #16: 61: Widen That Buyer Gap Or Else

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Widen That Buyer Gap Or Else

Having a buying need and doing something about it can often be quite disparate ideas. There are many things we would all like to do in business to grow our companies. The constraints are usually money and people. The lack of resources holds us back and so we persevere, always hoping that somehow, we will be able to bridge that gap between where we are now and where we want to be.

At the CEO level, we are always focused on the strategy for the company and the future goals. This is something that occupies a lot of thinking time. Once you get below that level, the intensity drops off. The CFO is thinking about this quarter or this year. Worried about the finances, the cash flow, the ability to find the funds to invest, the analyst reports, etc.

If we are talking about line managers, they are concerned with meeting their targets and keeping their good people and getting rid of the not so good people. HR has a very curious take on all of this. Basically, they don’t care all that much. They have a functional role here in Japan and are the rule police. Sometimes they have to respond to internal demands and go and source resources in the form of people or training, but generally they are passive.

When the buyer is looking at the gap between where they are now and where they want to be and they judge it is pretty close, they don’t feel any urgency or need to buy. They will have certain drivers pushing them along in their role in the business, but this gap perception component is key in selling to buyers. If we can’t show that the opportunity cost of no action is too high, then they are not inspired to do anything. Doing nothing or doing what you have always done are the easiest decisions for any buyer.

They are always time poor and a purchase decision usually comes wrapped in other tasks that will need attention, as a consequence of making that buying decision. Not buying isn’t always about the money. Often it can be hesitancy around the Pandora’s Box of extra workload this buying decision will trigger. It could be the lack of resources to make the most of the benefits of the purchase and this is what is also holding them back.

We have to draw out the implications of taking no action, of doing nothing. When and how do we do that? In the questioning stage, we can draw attention to the size of the gap. Now if we say “that is a pretty big gap you have there and you should fix that”, they doubt us. We are salespeople, so the buyer is always mentally dismissing everything we say as fluffy sales talk. We need them to tell us the gap is big and needs attention. Also that it needs attention right now.

When we are discussing the Should Be question - where they want to be in the future we need to add a little question to this process. We ask where they want to be and then we follow up their answer by asking them, “What happens if you can’t get there fast enough?”. It is not useful to ask them what happens if they cannot get there, because as far as they are concerned, they can get there by themselves. No, instead we draw their attention to the speed factor. No one ever gets there as fast as they want, so it automatic opens up the idea of a gap that needs addressing. Also the current speed they are traveling at, will always be their maximum speed, so we are there to help them speed things up.

When we are asking about the Barrier Question along the lines of “if you know where you are now and you know where you want to be, why aren’t you there yet”, we have another chance to emphasise that they need our help to achieve their goals. We find out what is the obstacle holding them back and then we ask the gap widener - “What happens if you cannot clear that obstacle?” Again we are trying to demonstrate that maybe they cannot do it all by themselves or do it fast enough and they need us in that equation to make it work. When we ask about the personal payoff for them if we are successful, after their answer we need to get them to reflect on the downside for them personally if it doesn’t happen or happen fast enough. We ask, “so if the targets are not met, what does that mean for you personally?”. In Japan, buyers rarely ever attach any personal gain to success and will talk in general terms of the group. In this case, we need to reference what will it means to the team if the goals are not met? It is the same idea but just asked in a different way.

If we try to point out these aspects which won’t work we won’t be believed. We have to get them to tell us it won’t work, under their own steam, at the current pace, with the current resources and investment. Once we get them thinking about that gap we can start suggesting when we present the solution that we are the cure for all their ills. We have the ability to help them get where they want to be faster and more smoothly.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Dec 26 2017

11mins

Play

Rank #17: 70: Handling Sales Meltdowns

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Handling Sale's Meltdowns

Sales is a tough gig. Sometimes the whole sale's meeting turns out to be a disaster. I had one of those today. The majority of my personal sale’s leads come directly through networking. We get leads off our SEO, through ad words and our general marketing activities. These all go to my sales team for follow up. We also do cold calling but as the President of the company, this is basically out for me. If I cold call someone as the President it comes across as a bit desperate and creates some doubt in the mind of the recipient of the call. They wonder why does the President have to cold call potential clients, what is wrong with this company?   It just doesn’t set the right frame for establishing a relationship. Networking is far better for me and trust me, I do a lot of it, to create opportunities to meet new companies.

Recently I had met a representative from a foreign multi-national company, who was not actually the right person to sell to, but who I asked to introduce me to the buyer. I always do this, if I think there is some potential and sometimes they do help out and sometimes they don’t. This duly happened in this case, the appointment was made with the buyer and I turn up on time. I am sitting in the meeting room waiting, when the door opens. A solid wall of vast negativity hits me as the buyer comes in to the room. Was it a bad day, is every day a bad day for them, were they unhappy that I had extracted a meeting through my contact? Who knows what the issue was, but it was definitely a big issue.

I was reflecting later that it has been quite a while since I have had such a totally negative sales meeting. Of course many don't buy and many never answer your emails or return your phone calls, but that is part and parcel of selling. What do you do though when you realise from the body language and attitude that this is going to be hard or even impossible?

Well you need to do your best. Unsurprisingly, the buyer insisted that I do my pitch rather than go through any discovery process around potential needs. This is always a very, very bad way to start a sales presentation. Handing over your solutions when you don't know what the problems are is a methodology designed to fail. Almost every time this happens for me there is no sale. It wasn’t looking good.

Today's respondent was not cooperative in the answers, as I tried to dig down and find some potential needs. You can't control that, but you still need to ask. The meeting is going badly, you know it and so you need to start thinking about extracting yourself because you realise there is no value here and no possibility of this time and effort amounting to a sale.

One of the things you can do after the meeting though is get someone else in the company to be the contact point, given you found you were radioactive, as far as this buyer was concerned. In my case there was a narrow chance to do some follow up by sending some links with more information. I asked one of my Japanese salespeople to do that and took myself out of the picture. As it turned out, the response she received was “we have no interest”, written in a very negative tone. You still have to try regardless though. In sales, there is no such thing as “no”. It is only “no” at this moment, to this offer, while that person is there.

I also suggest that we all mark our calendars and do follow-up with the company in a few years time. The buyer told me they were two years into the job, so I probably expect that in around two years time they will have been replaced by someone a lot nicer and a lot less difficult to work with. Either they move on or the company will move them on. So keep them on your mailing list for updates from your newsletter, but also check to see if they opt out. I am fully expecting this will be the case in short order.

The other important thing is to keep your confidence intact. Having a really bad meeting like that can sap your belief in yourself. Sales is a rollercoaster of emotions. Elation with a sale and deep depression with a rejection. To keep ourselves intact we need to face rejection in a way that we can pick ourselves up again and go back out there and try again. In Japan, they have a saying, “shichi korobi, ya oki” or fall down seven times, get up eight. That is sales in a nutshell.

In my case, I always think that buyers who don't buy from me are idiots. It sounds harsh doesn’t it. But I know that what we offer is high value, has a proven track record and will get results for their organisation. I see this buyer as doing a very poor job for their company. In fact, I see them damaging their own firm.

Now, this is just a mental trick I use to keep myself positive in the face of failure. Of course we should all reflect on what we could do to improve our sales presentation, but if we did our best, it was professional and they were a pain, then don't hesitate to protect yourself emotionally. Without hesitation, lay the blame at the feet of the buyer. Then get back out there straight away and get the sale with the next client.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Feb 27 2018

12mins

Play

Rank #18: 168: How Good Are Your Touchpoints In Sales

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How Good Are Your Key Touch Points In Sales?

Jan Carlzon’s book “Moments Of Truth” should be standard reading for everyone in business and particularly those of us in sales.  He talks about taking over as CEO of the Scandinavian Air Services (SAS) airline when the company was failing and had terrible consumer reviews, regarding their service.  With his team, they identified every touch point on the customer journey with the airline, to discover where the gaps were located.  We should be doing the same with our business.

Now you might be thinking that is the CEOs job, not the work of a humble salesperson. You would be wrong!!!  The client sees you as their guy or gal inside your company and they expect you to fix everything for them.  That includes fixing things before they even become a problem. 

The marketing department takes care of the website, the social media, the advertising, the collateral materials, etc.  As a salesperson, you won’t have much input into that degree of detail.  Nevertheless feedback what you are hearing from clients, so that marketing can do a better job of representing the firm to the buyers.  As a salesperson, you can take care of your own social media and make sure that any materials you present to the client are up to date and in pristine condition.

Clients do a lot of shopping on-line before they meet us today and that includes looking at our own social media.  What are they going to find?  You in a club doing the limbo dance, dressed in board shorts and a T-shirt, totally off your face and looking outrageous?  Or you in a business suit, looking professional and plausible as a business partner?  You can’t control marketing’s activities, but you can control what you put up on social media and therefore you can control your own professional image. 

For example, I have two Facebook accounts – one for business with around 5000 people connected to me and one for my karate mates, with about 30 people on it.  I have 24,000 followers on LinkedIn and the content is always professionally related to subjects around leadership, sales, communication and presenting, because that is what we sell. I try to control what buyers see of me before we ever meet.

When people call your company, what do they hear? In Japan, in 99.999% of cases, the person answering the phone won’t venture forth their name, is not pleasant, happy you called or excited to do some business with a possible new commercial partner.  They are guarded, cautious, stiff and sound like they hate their job.  First impression management in Japan is a concept that hasn’t hit these shores as yet.  Well now, how do you answer the phone yourself? Are you very “business-like”, that is, you sound serious, terse and unfriendly?  Get your phone Voice Memo app ready and the next time you answer the office phone, tape yourself and play it back – you might be shocked at how unhelpful you sound forming that vital first impression with your initial greetings.

When you send emails do you have a signature block bursting with contact information so the client doesn’t have to do any work to find your contact details?  How do you start the email?  Are you straight down to business or do you try to build some rapport?  Japan has some set pieces here, but that is the problem, everyone uses them, so people’s eyes glaze over and they don’t bother reading the first couple of sentences.  I have disciplined myself to make the first word of every email I send start with the word “thanks”, whether it is outbound or in reply.  I never get these types of greetings myself, so I know it is differentiated and not common.  That is good.  I want to stand out in a crowded field of people selling to my buyers.

We can’t go through every touch point in this piece, but at least let’s start thinking about how many touch points we have with clients and what is the current quality level like?  Look at how can we improve the current reality and how to maintain a consistent professional level of interaction with buyers.  When your competitors are just doing the same old, same old, you win.

Jan 14 2020

9mins

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Rank #19: 64: Story San, We'll Think About It

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Story San, We’ll Think About It

In Japan, this “We’ll think about it” response is often the result at the second meeting with the client. In the first meeting, the salesperson is establishing trust and credibility. They are trying to identify if they can actually be of assistance to the client or not. There will be permission sought to ask questions to better understand the buyer’s needs. In the second meeting, the proposal is presented, objections are dealt with and the seller tries to gain a client agreement to buy. Actually this is all fantasy and not what happens.

In reality, the Japanese salesperson gets straight into their pitch and starts bombarding the client with all the nitty gritty features of the product or service. They get to the end and then wonder why the client doesn’t buy and all they hear is “we’ll think about it”. In this case, the clients are using this answer to get rid of dud salespeople.

Sadly, even if you are a pro and were following a proven sale’s process, where you did all the necessary steps, you will still often get this response of “think about it” in Japan. This is usually because we have not gotten enough clarity during the questioning process. Sometimes we have misunderstood the client or they have not been clear enough themselves. It could be that there was a hidden objection they are reluctant to share with us and we have failed to address that concern, so no purchase can be made.

What do we do about this? We can certainly accept that they do need to think about it and we need to set the date for the followup meeting right there on the spot. We can try a formula from Victor Antonio, where we don’t accept that simple headline answer and we dig deeper. We can say, “when someone tells me they need to think about it, they means one of two things - they are not interested or are interested, but not sure. Which is it?”. If they say interested but not sure, then we question further about whether the purchase is a fit, whether the functionality is all there or not, or is it a question of finance?

The idea being that if the problem is anyone of these three reasons, we drill down further in order to understand how to handle it. If it is not a fit, why not? If the functionality is not there, what is missing and can we overcome that issue? If it is the money, then we look at how we might arrange the payment terms to allow them to make it in this budget cycle or spread it out over a few cycles.

In a Japanese buyer context, this line of questioning would be considered very aggressive and obnoxious. The buyer isn’t King in Japan – the buyer is God and it is not the place of pipsqueak salespeople to question God as to why they need to think about it. The group decision-making process in Japan almost ensures they really do need to think about it - together. The person receiving the sales call may be on board and may have been satisfied with the proposal, but they are rarely the sole decision maker. Inside the company, the buying decision will impact on various sections and the views and concerns of those groups need to be smoothed off, before anyone can make a final affirmative decision.

Trying to pressure the buyer during the sale’s call is meaningless, because that person still has to gain the internal alignment of the group on the next steps. It would make more sense if the seller instead addressed the issue of pushback toward the other internal parties who may have a problem with the decision to buy. In this case, rather than asking the person in front of us these aggressive questions, we could ask about other players involved.

For example, “Sometimes there are concerns from other interested parties about the appropriateness of the fit between our solution and your company’s needs. Do you foresee any internal concerns in this area? What about functionality – do you anticipate any difficulties with the functionality of our solution from within the other sections involved? What about the finance aspect, do you expect any resistance to what has been proposed?”.

In this way we can indirectly ask the buyer about the concerns without appearing to be questioning what they have just told us about they need to think about it. We can also take the opportunity to again provide antidotes to any concerns, because our interlocutor will be “our voice” during the inside meetings where the proposal will be discussed. We need to lead the witness, so to speak, to prepare for internal pushback. So when you hear “we will think about it” and you know you have done a good job of understanding the client’s needs and your proposal will help their business, just relax. Still definitely make that appointment for the follow-up meeting right there and then and get into their schedule but don’t keep pushing or you will hurt the trust you are trying to create.

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com

If you enjoy these articles, then head over to www.japan.dalecarnegie.com and check out our "Free Stuff" offerings - whitepapers, guidebooks, training videos, podcasts, blogs. Take a look at our Japanese and English seminars, workshops, course information and schedules.

About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.

A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.

Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.

Jan 16 2018

13mins

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Rank #20: 175: Unprofessional Professional Salespeople

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Unprofessional Professional Salespeople

Salespeople in their forties, who have been selling their whole careers are professional salespeople.  They are not Johnny Come Latelys who found themselves washed up on the shore of the sales profession or people who wandered through the wrong door and found themselves in a sales job.  They have been in the game for decades and have acquired vast experience.  Or so you would assume but Japan always has a surprise or two up its sleeve.

My wife contacted a very large multi national insurance company here to buy some cancer insurance.  The company rep was coming around on the weekend to get me to sign the dotted line for my component of the policy.  Being a sales guy myself, I am always nice to fellow salespeople and treat them well.  The policy was wrapped up and the documents duly signed and completed when they bridged into a cross sell.

We had now moved away from their insurance range of products to an annuity product.  It wasn’t announced as such but I quickly realised what it was because we used to sell these when I was at the Shinsei retail bank.  Actually they are a good idea for Japan because the Government pension scheme will collapse in the future when there are not enough young people paying in, to support the retirees taking the money out. 

Being a best selling author of Japan Sales Mastery you can imagine my interest in seeing how these seasoned Japanese insurance sales guys were going to conduct the sales process with me.  The brochure was immediately produced and we were walked through the details.  Dollar cost averaging got a lot of attention and there were graphs and tables to support the idea.  There was even a quiz with three amounts to choose from representing how much we thought the dollar cost averaging investment approach would produce based around a fluctuating graph of investment fund performance.

I chose the largest return amount and was immediately congratulated as being only the second person he had even met who got the answer correct.  Terrific!  However, while sitting there, I was beginning to wonder when these two characters would start quizzing me on my investment and financial goals, the structure of the family unit, current allocations etc.  Nope, not a question about any of that.  Just a long pitch on this product and the returns parameters we could expect at the end of ten years.  Actually, Japan has a such a low interest environment, the number proffered at the end of ten years was a peanut.

I took hold of the brochure at the end of the pitch and started reading through it.  They said their company was the fund manager, but what I found was it was a fund of fund structure. That is fine, nothing wrong with that, but what was the composition of these various funds they had selected.  Not a word about that.  I also found the bit about the fees, that the funds charged, including the tail.  I asked about these fees and it was instantly obvious neither of them had ever looked at that section of the brochure.  How could that be?

These are professionals in sales who don’t know their own product and don’t ask any questions.  I would not qualify them as “professional” despite the many years they have been in sales.  How can you expect to sell a sophisticated annuity product to a client, if you have no idea what their timelines are for retirement, what is the nature of their inheritance tax planning regime, their goals for investing? 

This is Japan.  Salespeople here are woefully under trained.  You may have a sales force here and assume that “professional” salespeople in their forties, who

have been in sales all their careers have a clue.  You would be wrong.

Mar 03 2020

12mins

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