Publicity November 2016

Salespeople’s new-client agonies

The sales Japan series

Japan is a huge market. This is a wealthy, sophisticated society, with a design sense that is second to none. People work diligently as a team and put in long hours. Achieving annual organic growth is an expectation that sales teams should be able to realise. Yet, the results are often flat lining or disappointing. Excuses abound—the yen is too strong, the yen is too weak, competitors are discounting, new competitors are taking market share, etc.

Finding new clients is the perpetual Holy Grail of the sales world. Websites lure, social media-sponsored posts promulgate, adverts track, email sequences are very precisely engineered, and content marketers assure of their expert authority.

This is the world of marketing unleashing the lead flow so that the sales team can follow up. But how well do the marketing and sales teams work together? Often, not well. The marketers complain the salespeople are squandering their hard-earned efforts. The sales people whine about the poor quality of the lead flow. Down at your shop, are they operating as two independent empires or as hand in glove colleagues furiously plotting together to achieve world domination?

Targeting new clients doesn’t get much attention in Japan. We all know that our avatar represents the typical client and all we have to do is identify others who fit that profile and the chances are high that they, too, will benefit from our product or service. How many sales teams here have defined their avatar?

What about your crew?

Get Your Spider
A standard operating procedure should be the “spider”. If a client from a particular business has landed in your sales funnel and has bought from you, there are no doubt others in that same niche who would as well. Having made a sale to one company, do the salespeople take the spider metaphor to heart and start listing up other similar targets to contact? They should, but they probably don’t. Why?

They are confronted by a major ice wall: the unknown. They don’t have a contact who can introduce them, so they do nothing. The idea of cold calling the target company is judged hard graft, so they don’t try. By the way, are your salespeople cold calling?

There is a way through the office lady (OL) barrier, and it is by focusing on the design of the conversation that will spark buyer interest. But no, they do nothing and just leave it. It is no push over here. When you cold call a Japanese company, if you don’t already know the exact name of the person you are after, then you get cordoned off by the lowest person on the firm totem pole—the youngest OL.

They are not very lady like, though. In fact, they are killers, axing right there your aspirations to speak with the buyer. They are merciless and unrelenting. If you don’t go down without a fight, they will switch you to the next level up on the totem pole. This is the spotty-faced, flat-headed, youngest male in the section, who will promise you that their boss will call you back as he gleefully gets rid of you, knowing that call will never happen.

No More Whimsy
These opening conversations should not be left to whim. They need to be designed and practiced, so that you do get through to someone who can make a buying decision. Untrained salespeople who try to cold call without a solid plan fail, and then tell all and sundry that you cannot cold call in Japan. Not true, but you need to have a proven methodology for doing this.

The fall back position may be to try to meet new clients through networking. Japan is a curious place, though, in the networking world. Fundamentally, no one is interested. I know you, you introduce me to Taro and I will do the same for you with my contacts. A pretty limited way of doing things, but this is acceptable here. Barefaced bowling up to a complete stranger and introducing yourself, trying to create a connection, is greeted with such shock that salespeople give up quickly.

Can you widen your network of people you have no connection to and can you work the room here? Yes, you can, but again you need a methodology and you need to take salespeople out of their self-imposed limits and practice it.

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