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Basic Business in Japan

By Roger S. Cohen

If you are considering developing business with Japanese firms, you may find that some of the business ground rules are different there. Here are a few important factors to consider in preparing for business in Japan.

  • Plan before you go.
    Before you make a trip to Japan, plan your business network. Establish your Japanese contacts in your local market, and then in Japan. Your first call might be to the local office of a Japanese trading house, called the sogo shosha.

  • Consider a trading company.
    There are nine giant trading companies, and dozens of smaller ones. Most have representative offices in larger cities, world-wide. These companies might serve as your source of market information, your distributor, and your guide in Japan. Introductions they can make to customers and potential business associates will be invaluable.

  • Understand the market in Japan.
    Think about how you can tailor your product to meet Japanese requirements and specifications. Your Japanese customers will want products that satisfy their needs, and a supplier who is interested in their requirements. Japanese buyers want products that have a substantial international image.

  • Patience counts.
    The purpose of your first meeting with your potential customer in Japan is to obtain a second meeting. Don't expect to close a deal without taking many steps to building a relationship. Your potential clients, customers and business partners in Japan want to know you as a reliable firm, and a reliable individual, before they will take the step of giving you business.

  • Persistence pays.
    Japanese firms are not likely to make snap decisions on product selection. Expect your business development to take about three times longer than it does at home. That is why you need to focus on relationship building, along with sales activities.

  • Performance is paramount.
    Products must be delivered as promised, on time, and in accordance with specifications. Late delivery, improper packing, missed specifications and the like will cost you your business.

If you master each one of these steps, you'll be ahead of the game, and have a better chance to be successful. For more information, take a look at Ten Tips for Successful Exporters.




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