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Connecting with Your Japanese Customer

The goal of a customer call in Japan should be to establish (or perpetuate as the case may be) a personal connection and sense of trust. In Japan's group-oriented society, personal trust not only suggests a reliable person, but this sense of trust for the person is generally transmitted to the group the person represents. This is the foundation for creating the impression that your company is reliable - one of the most important attributes a vendor can have in Japan.

The second focus should be on your customers' needs and what you can do to serve them, or serve them better in the case of a relationship that is already established. This is counter to the American instinct to focus on showing the customer how good we are.

In February, 2010, Newsweek reported that Psychologist Nalini Ambady of Tufts University headed a study that tracked activity in the brains of Japanese and American volunteers who were shown drawings of people in a dominant pose (arms crossed, face forward) and a submissive pose (head down, shoulders hunched). It turns out the reward circuits of the volunteers' brains were most active when they saw the postures most highly valued in their respective cultures: dominant for Americans and submissive for Japanese.

So if Japanese see the humble posture as most positive, what does this mean to Americans who are programmed for the reverse? It means that questions like, "How could we be of service to you?" -- "How could we serve you better?" and "What can we do for you?" are golden to the Japanese.

Japanese will surely appreciate a presentation that is informative. But the attitude with which it is delivered and the personal connection made with the customer will determine whether or not it serves your bigger goal: getting and keeping the client! 


by Diana Rowland, author Japanese Busines: Rules of Engagement

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Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.


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Globalization has made cross-border business deals more common than ever. But, every day, deals are jeopardized or lost when foreign associates are offended by Americans unaware of other countries' customs, culture or manner. while traveling, meeting a foreigner here or communicating on the...



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