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THE Sales Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

THE Sales Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Dale Carnegie Training has been effective in guiding individuals and organizations to success through enhancement of human relations skills for over 50 years in Japan and over 100 years in the United States.

We offer a number of podcasts and tools of engagement that will help align the hearts as well as the minds of employees with your organizational objectives.

Listen to our "THE Sales Japan Series" - Dale Carnegie Training Podcasts.

Finding clients is an art and so is building trust and credibility that you can help them solve their business problems. We might be very charming when we first meet the client, sending out a competency vibe that the client relates to. They are open to our inquiries into the current state of their business, where the gaps are located and the urgency of filling those gaps. So far so good. 

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. 

None of us like to hear “no”. We are raised with this word from our parents and we didn’t like getting it then and we don’t like getting it now. We have something in our mind about how things should go and this little word means we are going to be denied. The irony is that in sales this is a very common answer to our offer. For something so prevalent, you would think that salespeople would be real experts in dealing and overcoming this comment. Not true. 

Buyers should buy and not quibble, hesitate or question. That at least is what salespeople hope for. That may happen, but the frequency is not high and you certainly wouldn’t want to be banking your career arc on the odds of that occurring. The reality is we want buyers to object. If we don’t get an commitment to buy right then and there, the next best case is they give us an objection. No objection then no sale. 

Life is full of various rhythms and flows. We have a set piece most mornings. Arise, eat, get ready for work, head out the door. We work, finish, go to the gym, hobby, etc., or go straight home. Saturday we have a certain flow going on and it is usually different to our Sundays. We like certainty, predictability, constancy. That is all fine, because we are all deep in our Comfort Zones. This is the cuddly place where we have reduced as much risk as possible and we feel safe. All of this is bad for the sales life. 

Salespeople work to certain rhythms. One of the negative rhythms is to ease off as we get close to the end of the year. In Japan, most financial years end in March, so the end of December means things are starting to slow down as people get ready for the holiday break coming up. Mentally they start to take the foot off the accelerator and get ready to cruise to the year end. This is 8% of the year we are talking about here, so we cannot afford to lose productivity to that extent at any time. We need to keep hammering away right until the last working day of the year. What should we be focusing on in sales? 

You really appreciate the importance of brand, when you see it being trashed. Companies spend millions over decades constructing the right brand image with clients. Brands are there to decrease the buyer’s sense of risk. A brand carries a promise of consistent service at a certain level. Now that level can be set very low, like some low cost airlines, where “cheap and cheerful” is the brand promise. Another little gem from some industries is “all care and no responsibility”. At the opposite end are the major Hotel chains. They have global footprints and they want clients to use them where ever they are in the world. They want to be trusted that they can deliver the same level of high quality. There are plenty of competitors around, so the pressure is on to protect the brand. 

We get lazy. We start cutting corners. We get off our game. We chill, cruise and take the foot off the pedal. Sales is demanding and a life of constant pressure. The temptation is when we get to a certain level of success we think well, we have done enough. We can justify that coffee break, that longer lunch, coming in late after the first mid-morning appointment and heading home early after the last early afternoon appointment. This is not how the pro thinks. We want have it scheduled in our diary to get big and get back to basics. 

The object of a sale is to exchange a good or a service for money. The degree to which that money can exceed the variable and fixed costs associated with delivering it, determines the success and longevity of the company. We all know that nothing happens in business without a sale. If that is the case then salespeople have a critical role to produce as much revenue as possible for the firm. There are prices set for goods and services. Goods are tangible items and plotting the costs and the margin of profit are relatively straight forward. Buy low and sell high is an old business maxim. Services are more difficult to price because they are intangibles. In both cases, the value proposition of the price against what is being delivered, is the communication piece that salespeople have to master in order to be successful. 

Cold calling always creates a debate amongst the sales community. Some say it has seen it’s day, others defend it as part of the sales resource bank for getting leads. I don’t think anyone suggests it has a high rate of success. Yet, there are occasions when we need to call someone we have never spoken to before and who has never heard of us. Why would we be doing that? We may have observed the spider in action. 

Pricing is usually set by the boss and salespeople are just there to get out and sell at that designation. The derivation of that price point can be quite varied. In some cases, there is a careful calculation involved. It determines the necessary return to cover direct and indirect costs, plus make a specified margin of profit. In other cases a moist index finger is thrust skyward and a price magically appears. The services industry, in particular, has a lot of finger skyward waggling going on. The trouble though is salespeople are not convinced by any price setting methodology. 

“I would be able to sell a lot more except for all the extraneous, external factors over which I have zero control”. Actually, you have never heard this line of argument before from a salesperson. This is because this statement is an honest appraisal of what they see as the problem, but they don’t express it that way. This comes from not having sufficient self-awareness to realize this is what they are actually saying, by way of excuse, for not being more successful in sales. Instead they bitch about the boss, the market, industry changes, currency movements, the sales materials, the pricing and everything else but their pathetic sales ability. 

Sales people are always under pressure to meet their targets. In high pressure situations, this creates certain behaviours that are not in the client’s best interests. We know we should listen carefully to what the client wants, before we attempt to suggest any solution for the buyer’s needs. We know that by asking well designed questions, we can possibly come up with an insight that triggers a “we hadn’t thought of that” reaction at best and at worst, at least know if we have a solution for them or not. Under pressure though, salespeople can go temporarily deaf. 

Sales is one of the few things in business you can measure accurately and immediately. Are you getting greater efficiencies from your internal systems? Is the marketing working? Are our tem becoming more skillful? These are topics which are super important but also devilish to measure. Sales however is straightforward – how much did you sell? The pressure on salespeople is enormous. There are deadlines for sales, there are accurate measures in place, tracking everything. What was the revenue return relative to the ratio of the salesperson’s total costs. For every yen the salesperson costs how much do they generate in net revenue return. Are they yielding a 3:1 return or is the ratio at 7:1 or better? 

48. Showmanship In Sales
Tricky area in sales, showmanship. The word has a certain odor about it that reeks of fake, duplicity, con game, spruker, carnival barker, etc. Yet, like storytelling, this is an important part of the sales professional’s repertoire. Clients are card carrying members of the Great Guild Of Skeptics. They are highly doubtful about salespeople’s claims. We need to bring some powerful persuasion techniques to the fore. 

47. To Push Or Not To Push?
Pushy salespeople are very, very annoying. They try to bug you into buying and we really don’t like it. We may actually buy, but we don’t like them anymore and probably won’t become a repeat buyer. Fair enough, but what about when you are the salesperson? At what point should we give up on convincing the buyer that our solution is the best for them? 

46. Real World Negotiations
We have many images of negotiation thanks to the media. It could be movie scenes of tough negotiations or reports on political negotiations with rogue states led by lunatics. Most of these representations however have very little relevance in the real world of business. A lot of the work done on negotiations focuses on “tactics”. This is completely understandable for any transactional based negotiations. Those one off deals where there is no great likelihood of any on-going relationship between buyer and seller. This is false flag. 

45. Boozing Your Way To Sales Success in Japan
A LinkedIn post I read recorded how an American sales guy got off the booze and the client entertainment rat race. It got a lot of coverage and comment because it obviously struck a chord with many fellow salespeople. It got me thinking about the same conundrum for those of us selling in Japan.

44. Jealousy, Envy and Spite In Sales
Sales is a tough enough job without having additional complications. Clients can be very demanding, often we depend on logistics departments and production divisions, to get the purchase to the buyer. We can’t control the quality, but we have total responsibility, as far as the client is concerned. There is the constant pressure of revenue results, with bosses always pushing hard on the numbers. 

43. Rejection
Everyone hates to be rejected, but not many people have this as a fundamental aspect of their work. We ask colleagues for help and they assist, we ask our bosses for advice and they provide it. Buyers though are a different case. They can easily find a million reasons not to buy and unashamedly tell us “no”. The rejection itself is not so much the problem, as is how we respond, how we deal with the rejection. 

42. Fast and Slow In Sales
Time is of the essence. Patience is a virtue. Worthy aims but sometimes we mix these aspirations up in sales. We are not moving quickly enough and miss the chance. At other times , we are impatient and we force the issue when we should be more stoic and considered. We lose on both counts whenever we confuse what we should actually be doing. 

41. Sales Stories
Storytelling in sales is our ability to express ourselves in a way which is engaging and persuasive. We capture the attention of the buyer because we have taken the client to a world unexpected. This might be because the real essence of their problem has just now been revealed to them. The salesperson who can marshal the discussion to bring forth the hidden insights for the client is the storyteller par excellence. 

40. In The Mood For Sales?
The dark morning gloom of rain clouds, snow drifts or driving sleet can have an impact on our sales mood. We may be thinking to ourselves what a “lousy day” to have run around town juggling umbrellas, trains, taxis and bags of samples to visit clients. The next day, the rains have departed. Brilliant blue skies and a warm sun seem to say “what a beautiful day to make sales calls”. Neither comment is acceptable for the pro salesperson, because they are not randomly controlled by the weather.

39. Prospecting For Golden Clients
Do you have a clear image and understanding of your perfect client? Authors often mention about writing for their avatar. This is their imaginary reader. They have a clear picture of whom they are writing for. They know their reader’s hopes, fears, aspirations, behaviors, goals and idiosyncrasies.

38. Hard Sell Stupidity
“We are going to be in your area next week, would you be available on Tuesday or Thursday?” “Really? Which part of my area will you be in?” “Are you available on Tuesday or Thursday?” “Wait a minute, you just said you would be in my area, so which part of my area will you be in?” “Akasaka.” “Really that’s interesting. Akasaka is a big place, which part of Akasaka?” “Are you available on Tuesday or Thursday?” This was an outbound investment sales call. The object was to sell me on investing my hard earned cash in their company’s investment product.

37. How to Properly Prepare For Client Meetings
Salespeople are very busy, rushing around finding new clients, developing leads, networking, cold calling, attending client meetings, getting stuck into preparing proposals and later executing the follow through on what has been promised. Somewhere in this process some key basics start to go missing. One of those basics is the proper preparation for client meetings.

We all know that consistency is a fundamental requirement if we are going to establish trust with others. We ask buyers to purchase from us on the basis that we will be delivering what we say we will deliver, on time, at the agreed price point and quality. Now no salespeople go around promising anything less so there is no differentiation at this stage of the sales process. What can we do to differentiate from all the other rivals out there making promises and claims of reliability.

Cold calling is an unheralded intervention into someone's already packed schedule. They are distracted by the phone from what they were concentrating on, so they are automatically annoyed. They are time conscious because this call was not planned. The person calling them is an unknown quantity so the trust factor is zero or less. They have been cold called by idiots in the past who say dumb things like "How are you today" which is an immediate warning bell that we are talking to a nincompoop. The unfamiliar voice triggers who is this, being called by unknown people is not good, I don't like this.

Three woeful contributions from salespeople include "we have this widget", "you should have it?" and "we can discount the price". What a mess right there. Yet, left to their own devices, this is the type of nonsense salespeople say to clients. Serving the client's best interests is job one for salespeople, so why aren't they having a proper conversation with the buyer?

It always astonishes me that many salespeople have very little sense of proper timing to start selling their product or service. In the sales call, they are in a rush to get down to business. Japan has mastered the idea of building some rapport before starting the sales conversation. Small talk predominates at the commencement of the meeting and then smoothly glides into the main discussion. Western business people are all "time is money" focused and want to "get straight down to business". They consider that preamble to be a waste of their valuable time.

The implication of this title is that if you don’t properly follow through on the sale then you are a loser. Well, it is true - you are a loser. The difficulty of gaining a sale is hard enough, but the real difficulty is to get the re-order. This is where we should all be very finely focused. Rather than approaching a potential client with a sale in mind, what if we set off with the idea of the re-order firmly entrenched in our brain? This simple switching of gears completely changes the conversation, the goals and the execution of the sale follow through.

Like a lot of people, I subscribe to various sites that send you useful information, uplifting quotes etc. The following morsel popped into my inbox, “People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care –Anonymous”.

Sisyphus was banished to Hades for misdeeds in life and spent eternity rolling a large stone to the top of a hill, to just watch it descend again. This is the sales life. Every end of financial year, we are back down at the bottom of the hill. Here we go again, having to push that big rock all the way to the top.

Salespeople are world class whiners. They are the most creative group amongst all professions for coming up with excuses about why they can’t meet their targets. The sale’s life requires a constant stream of new buyers. Marketing is permanently inhabited with ne'er-do-wells, who are sabotaging the sales department’s efforts with underdone campaigns and inept promotions. When the leads are few and far between, desperate measures are called for and the chief villain of the piece is cold calling. Everyone will assure you that you can’t cold call in Japan.

Japan is a huge market. This is a wealthy, sophisticated society, with a design sense second to none.  People work diligently as a team and put in long hours.  Achieving annual organic growth should be an expectation of bosses 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.

With all of this preparation in hand (and it takes about a nanosecond to complete this, once you understand their role and their style), you are now ready to start asking the right questions.

Having built rapport, leveraged our credibility statement to receive permission to ask questions and having designed our questions with the buyers four key interests (Primary, Criteria, Other, Dominant) in mind, we are ready to apply the questioning technique.

Salespeople who don’t have a framework for their sales conversation with their client, will wind up on the back foot following the buyer’s purchasing framework. If we know what we are doing, we have built some good rapport, used our credibility statement to receive permission from the client to ask questions and are now ready to go deeper with our sales conversation. For many salespeople who are “free spirits” and “artists” who don’t design the sales conversation, this means a chapter and verse meandering through the gritty detail of the product or service features. Blathering on about the 50 shades of grey available and offering expert, in-depth insights into the differences might be intriguing, but if the buyer is looking for things in the colour blue, the effort is completely wasted and pointless. Now this sounds primitive and obvious, except that the vast majority of salespeople are geared up for feature explanation, not needs exploration.

Smoothly memorised shtick, elaborate glossy materials, sharp suits, large expensive watches, bleached teeth, the perfect coiffure are not important in sales. Yet, this is the image of the pro-salesperson. Most of us never meet many pro-salespeople, because the vast majority we run into are hopeless. We meet the great unwashed and untrained, the part-time and partially interested, usually in a local retail format. The slick sales dude is what we see in movies or is a received image from urban myths. Hollywood pumps out Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, The Wolf of Wall Street and we get sold an image of what high pressure salespeople look like.

Price is always a big issue. We salespeople are very happy to drop the price, because we see this as the easy route forward with the client. Whenever there is a price increase, we immediately whine about it, because we see this as making our revenue task more difficult. We are permanently happy to discount, to win the business, even when our commissions are tied to the size of the sale. The problem is we are totally focused on the wrong thing. 

Former American President John F. Kennedy left us with a great quote: “Let’s never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. Actually, we do fear to negotiate though, don’t we. We worry about asking for too much or too little. We usually imagine a “negotiator” as someone totally unlike ourselves, a tough individual with ice coursing through their veins.

What are today’s revenue results, how much is in the pipeline, when will we get paid by the client, what is the run rate, will we meet our budget - this is the lexicon of sales. The sales results are the end product of a series of processes. There is usually ample attention placed on sales processes but sometimes we need to step back from the detail, the mechanics, the techniques and contemplate the overall environment we have created for sales to flourish.

Salespeople don't set the price of what they sell. This is usually an obscure outcome decided by someone else inside the machine. It might actually be an elaborate process, where multiple variables are carefully calibrated, mathematical formulae are applied and a price is arrived at. Or, it might be a slightly moist index finger boldly thrust skyward to come up with a number. The latter is often the case when arriving at pricing for services. Regardless, the salespersons task is to sell at that price. This is where we get into trouble.

Lawyers have spent a lot of time studying to pass their bar exams. When they graduate, they are the white collar galley slaves, shackled to legal partner’s teams, doing the grunt work for years, until they can be allowed on deck. As they move up the ranks they begin to interact with clients. After a few more years they actually have to go out and get clients. The big dog in the law firm is the rainmaker, who brought in the clients who paid the most money for the professional services of the firm.

Bullying, humiliation, ridiculous targets, rubbish goods, stress, shame – a toxic cocktail often suffered in the sales environment. We often get into sales by accident. There are no varsity courses in sales. There is training available by companies like ourselves, but often this is not offered by the employer.

If we are presenting a brochure, flyer, price list, hard copy slide deck or any other typical collateral item, then we should adopt best practice for greatest success. Have two copies always, one for you to read and one for the client, unless you are a genius of reading upside down (which by the way seems to include all Japanese!).

Jan Carlzon many years ago published a tremendous guide to customer service. He had the job of turning around SAS airlines and captured that experience in his book “Moments Of Truth”. I was reminded of Carlson’s insights when I was recently checking into my hotel in Singapore.

Clever, shallow, smooth as silk, glib, “rat with a gold tooth” salespeople are the scourge of the earth. They are focused on your money and how quickly they can separate you from it. There are no barriers to entry or qualifications to enter this field of sales work. Riff raff need not apply but quite often they do. Some will tell you anything, they live for today and like a shark, are constantly moving around in order to feed. Snake oil purveyors to the naïve and trusting, create an unsavory image in the minds of our buyers.

What we say and how we say it matters. It matters in life, in families and in business- especially in sales. Sale’s talk is very semantics driven. By the way, the classic Hollywood big talking salesperson is an archeological artifact, a dusty relic, now banished to the tombs. Today, salespeople have to be articulate but not glib, concise not flowery, evidence based not barrow-boy spivs.

“Winning is not a sometime thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all of the time”. This is a great quote from the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi and we can apply this idea directly to negotiations. Any business undertaking does better when there is a structure, a process that is capable of creating consistent outcomes. As negotiators, if we don’t manage the process, we risk becoming passive, reactive spectators to events as they randomly unfold. Purposeful behavior is the key to influencing win-win outcomes.

Every sale is a negotiation. It might be centered around price but it could also be around delivery times, quantities, guarantees, return policy, quality assurance, legal liability, etc. We can’t control the issues which arise during a negotiation or the attitude of the buyer, but we can control our own skill level and approach. The more we understand and manage our own behavior, the greater the influence we will have with others. To be successful we need to behave in a way which influences the interaction by moving it along a collaborative continuum. What are some recognizable qualities in successful negotiators? Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

I am sure you have you seen notices explaining that this store location is going to close while the building is being reconstructed and that it will reopen at a specified date in the future? Given the increasingly stringent earthquake code here in Tokyo after 2011, we are seeing many businesses opting to re-build their premises. One notice however has become much talked about locally amongst Japanese retailers. Toraya are a famous traditional Japanese sweets manufacturer and retailer. Mr. Mitsuhiro Kurokawa is the 17th generation of his family to lead the business and his “we are rebuilding” notice is considered outstanding, even in a country where omotenashi or customer first service is renowned.

The customer is Kamisama (God) in sales in Japan. We hear this a lot here across all industries and sectors. Sometimes however, the buyer can more like an Oni (Devil) when they deal with salespeople. Bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of the source, but when you are trying to sell a company on your product or service, do you just have to suck it up? Actually no!

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.

Sale’s solutions are what make the business world thrive. The client has a problem and we fix it, our goods or services are delivered, outcomes are achieved and everybody wins. In a lot of cases however these are only partial wins. Problems and issues are a bit like icebergs – there is a lot more going on below the surface than can be spotted from the captain’s bridge. The salesperson’s role is to go after the whole iceberg and not just the obvious bit floating above the waterline.

He slid effortlessly into the chair and before I knew it, he had popped open the oyster shell of his laptop and was pointing his screen menacingly in my direction. Uh oh! Powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide bombarded me with detailed data, specs, diagrams and text information. After 20 minutes he stopped the torture. “Wow”, I thought, “he hasn’t managed to ask me even one teensy question during this session of our first meeting”. His business card announced he was the Sales Director – that seemed a definite worry if he was responsible for others.

In 1936 an unknown author, despite many frustrating years of writing drafts and receiving publisher rejections, finally managed to get his manuscript taken up by a major publishing house. That book became a classic in the pantheon of self-help books – “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Surprisingly, many people in sales have never read this work. Plato, Socrates, Marcus Aurelius etc., were all around substantially prior to 1936 and we still plumb their insights. Dale Carnegie has definitely joined that circle of established thinkers, offering wisdom and valuable ideas. His aim was to help all of us be better with each other, particularly in a business context. He did this by laying down some principles, which will make us more successful in dealing with others, especially those people not like us.

Salespeople are carrying around a lot of baggage with them when they visit clients. The smooth talking, dodgy sales person trying to con us, is the folkloric villain of the piece. Reversing that doubt and hesitation is critical to gaining acceptance as a valuable business partner for the client. This entire problem is magnified when we meet the client for the first time.

The hardest sales job in the world is selling something you don’t believe in yourself. The acid test is would you sell this “whatever” to your grandmother? If the answer is no, then get out of there right now! It is rarely that clear cut though. The more important test is whether what you are selling solves the client’s problem or not. Selling clients on things that are not in their best interests is a formula for long-term failure and personal and professional brand suicide.

The pressure for increasing results is not constant. It is just keeps surging “higher, faster, further”. We in the sales team do work hard. We are polite, conscientious, quite customer focused. Great! So why can’t we grow sales fast enough to meet our targets. What is the problem?

It has always been astonishing to me how hopeless some salespeople are in Japan. Over the last 20 years, I have been through thousands of job interviews with salespeople. We teach sales for our clients and so as a training company we see the good, the bad and the ugly - a very broad gamut of salespeople. We also buy services and products ourselves and so are actively on the receiving end of the sales process. Well actually that is a blatant exaggeration. There are almost no salespeople operating in japan using a sales process. But there are millions of them just winging it (badly).

Do you subscribe to various sites that send you useful information, uplifting quotes etc? The following morsel popped into my inbox the other morning, “People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care–Anonymous”. Wow! What a powerful reminder of the things that really matter in our interactions with others. This piece of sage advice should be metaphorically tattooed on to the brain of every single person involved in sales.

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