Business etiquette landmines to avoid when making a sales pitch to Japanese business owners.
November 14, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Business etiquette landmines to avoid when making a sales pitch to Japanese business owners.

I have to write a business-proposal/sales-pitch which will then be translated into Japanese and presented to small business owners in Japan. We will be proposing that they partner with a certain small Canadian company to mutual benefit. This document is a follow-up contact which will be sent in cases where the lead generation team has already been in touch and interest has been expressed.

I have written this sort of material for the Canadian market before but am wondering if there are any Japan-specific business etiquette issues I should be aware of that might not be obvious to a Canadian. Things I should say, not say?
posted by 256 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: OMG do not try to do this yourself. Take the time to hire a Japanese consultant to hone your pitch.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:32 AM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

Be sure to be humble, very polite, and not toot your own horn too loudly.
posted by Dansaman at 9:33 AM on November 14, 2012

Yeah, this goes beyond just "don't tell an Englishman you like his pants." There's a whole mess of business culture and just-plain culture differences that need serious attention beyond just translating a Western-style pitch. The money you spend on a consultant for this will be well worth it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:34 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be aware that "maybe" or "we'll have to think about it" is the polite Japanese way of saying "No".
posted by tau_ceti at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second the comment of seanmpuckett and Tomorrowful. You should hire a consultant. Your pitch is probably at least 95% appropriate for your target audience, but when the consultant polishes it that last 5%, you will know where your money went.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2012

Roger Axtell wrote a Dos and Taboos for business travellers. There are also Culture Shock and Culturesmart editions for Japan.
posted by brujita at 4:00 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It would help to know what sector you are in, and what province you are from. The Canadian Embassy in Tokyo has a great team that provides great insights, and will bend over backwards to help. I know a number of trade commissioners at the Embassy, but they are mostly ICT and games-focused. Your province may have a trade rep in Japan (BC, Alta and Ontario all do), and they will also help you out - they are competed with each other as provinces, plus competing with the fed government for clients (although, at the end of the day, everyone collaborates) but there are motivated people in Japan who can give you some basic insights. Memail me for more info if you like.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:31 AM on November 18, 2012

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