All too often Americans (like me) think that we know everything. The reality is that our society has only been around for a bit over 200 years and we’re just getting started. That’s why it can be valuable for a sales negotiator to take a look at how societies that have been around for 1,000’s of years negotiate. Like, say, Japan…
The U.S. really started to take a look at how we dealt Japan in the 1980’s when trade between our countries exploded. What people quickly realized is that both sides of the table were fundamentally different. There for the first decade or so, U.S. sales negotiators were getting taken to the bank more often than not because the Japanese sales negotiators were doing a better job.
Over time HOW these negotiations were being conducted was closely studied. Three techniques quickly became apparent:
- Considered Response / Respectful Silence: when Japanese sales negotiators are on the other side of the table, be prepared to sit quietly. Western sales negotiators don’t know what to do when nobody is talking – and the Japanese know this. They can sit, work out math problems, draw in long breaths, etc. and say nothing for minutes at a time. This is all designed to get you to become flustered and give in on a point or say something that you shouldn’t say.
- KAN – “Seeking Heavenly Approval”: Western sales negotiators like to focus on the here and now. Japanese sales negotiators realize that this deal is just part of a much bigger relationship. After the details of the agreement have been worked out and it appears as though you are close to closing the deal, members of the Japanese team will pause. They will consider if they really want to do this deal with you – is it going to be worth it in the long run, or are you just going to be too much of a hassle to deal with? This moment is called KAN – reaching “heavenly approval”.
- Time & Money: the Japanese view the sales negotiation process differently than their Western partners do. We in the west see it as something to race through and quickly get done with. The Japanese view it as something to be nurtured. They set aside enough time to do it properly. They resist attempts to wrap it up quickly. They will revisit points over and over again in order to test your resolve. This is how Japanese sales negotiators turn time into money.
It is entirely possible to enter into sales negotiations with Japanese partners on the other side of the table and come out with an agreement that you feel good about. However, you need to fully understand how they see the world and adjust your sales negotiating style to this situation.
Have you ever had a chance to negotiate with a Japanese team? Were there long, uncomfortable periods of silence? Did they seem to slow things down and do more thinking as the end of the negotiations approached? Did you remember to budget enough time for the negotiation or did they budget more time than you had? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.