UNDERSTAND CUSTOMER’S CULTURE – Best Sales and Marketing Ideas #66

101 Best Sales and Marketing Ideas

IDEA 66:


The world is large and varied, and so are the customers in it. At home or board, sales people should study how culture affects personal relationships.


As an example consider a single country, albeit one that many appear somewhat alien to Englishmen like me….

Japanese business people tend to be well travelled, are group-oriented, and rather formal in their dealings with each other. To start well when selling to Japanese people, you need to remember a number of things. Do not overdo eye contact, shake hands only if a hand is offered to you (and do not try to bow in Japanese style, although a sincere nod of the head is appreciated), use title with names, and make sure that careful use of language ensures understanding, checking as necessary. Business cards are much used (yours should have a Japanese translation on the reverse).

The Japanese have a tendency to check details. You quote a delivery date, and they will want to speak to those involved in implementing it, to reassure them that it is seen as possible. The Japanese always try to conceal their emotions, hate losing face, and are uncomfortable if other (you) lose control, for instance showing anger or impatience. You must show respect and patience and any business transaction is, in part, seen as a pursuit of harmony.

You need to always use language carefully, and you should not act immediately to fill silence, as taking a moment over things is normal. Politeness and consideration are valued, and personal touches (things like a thank-you note or small gifts  -you should ask before unwrapping if they are given to you) are seen as very much a part of building relationships.

Specifically they expect considerable detail about any matter being discussed, and will look on an overview, or seemingly vague or disorganized information, with suspicion: it might be read as evasion. They appreciate, indeed expect, good support material (what you see as sales aids) –anything from plans and graphs to summaries of details dealt with. Japanese customers will most likely expect you to deal with a group of people, so you must relate to the whole group, even those taking less part or less able to speak English (if that is the language being used). The difference from a Western approach are considerable, and even a snapshot like this is sufficient to show that some research is necessary, and likely to pay dividends.

Such detail, and more, is necessary whenever you focus on a market that involves a different culture. (The Culture Shock  series of book make good reference).

In practice

  • Whatever group your customers belong to may be worth investigating.
  • Culture and nationality are obvious differentiators, but there may be other groupings where acquiring knowledge about them helps the sales process.

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