Japanese customers are quite easy to deal with when they do not want buy anything from you. Things turn vastly different as the moment of truth, the buying decision appears on the horizon. In consulting business, we are dealing with intangible products and solutions. We charge for our time and customers carry back a powerpoint slide deck as the deliverable. The Japanese customers insist on getting to know every finer details of what the ultimate deliverable "powerpoint slide deck" is going to look like. Very often we have to give them detailed content list or show a similar output or even a powerpoint which would look like a deliverable. My non-Japanese team would find it strange and they would take it as lack of trust or faith in their ability to deliver. Japanese members in the team would never understand their point of view as they considered this to be a standard business practice.
There was no solution to this internal conflict until I was armed with the concept of "how they eat, how do they do business".
One day we visited a traditional Japanese restaurant. What attracted my attention was the real life replicas of all the dishes in the menu card displayed right at the entrance. Each and every dish on the menu was replicated to finest possible details and displayed in a large display window right at the entrance. The replicas were very detailed and look good to eat. The level of details is simply mesmerizing. Black sesame on the rice, garnishing on soup, freshly cut sashimi everything is replicated as it is. It was not just the intricate details but even the quantity of rice, length of unagi, amount of salad everything was very accurately represented.
Normally, I would have missed all this but the brewing conflict made me curious.
"What is that for?", I asked my Japanese colleague. "This gives a clear idea to the customer, what exactly they are going to get. If the look or quantity in the actual dish is different than the replica, customers may complain. Japanese customers want to know exactly how much they are supposed to pay and what it looks like for them to make an decision to enter the restaurant. " he replied.
Things were as clear as a crystal for everyone. If Japanese customers need such a great clarity in something mundane, routine and low priced as restaurant food, how could they buy something for millions of dollars without preview?
Our next goal now is to beat the restaurant menu card replica by our detailed preview presentations to win over the Japanese customersNext week, I will share our experience of winning over Korean customers.