How To Negotiate With The Japanese
by: Richard Stone
Japanese managers are organized for their discussions with Western associates by way of concentrated discussion exercises. Their negotiating technique, on the other hand, often presents difficulties to European managers. Therefore this is an accepted topic on sales training courses.
This style, says the management consultant and Japan expert Joy Golden, is a result of the extreme cultural and national homogeneity of the Japanese ('Negotiating with the Japanese', in European Business Review, Vol. 91).
Japanese people always start an arbitration with a set collective view; they loathe noisy and fierce negotiations. Their way of solving problems is a slow, quiet and very thoughtful process. A Japanese negotiating partner will never express displeasure or rejection and will never publicly distance themselves from the collective opinion. What is entirely bizarre to the Japanese is the oral negotiating and problem-solving approach (argument + counter-argument = compromise) of the West!
A Japanese negotiating delegation will appear therefore at the initial meeting with a set opinion on fundamental points. You should always expect your negotiating partners to have informed themselves thoroughly about your company, its products and services, its connections and its financial position. Never imagine that you can shift your interlocutors from their standpoint with logical arguments.
The following recommendations apply to the different phases of discussion:
The Opening Phase
The Japanese prefer a gradual and gentle opening to a discussion. Always start off with a non-business, but also non-personal, subject in order to create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere for discussion. For example, sport is a highly appropriate subject matter.
The Presentation Phase
The business part should start with a short statement: a brief outline of your company's history, a few details about the Japanese company (by doing this you show you have done your homework!), a laudatory review of the superb dealings and relations so far, and an optimistic glance into your future together. Speak slowly here but without emotionalism.
As a next step, give a rough sketch of the negotiating points on the agenda, the negotiating positions up to now and potential problems that will have to be cleared up. Never presume, without checking, that you have been understood during your presentation. Nodding heads, busy note taking or even the presence of an interpreter are no guarantee of this! If you are fortunate, misapprehension will only postpone the negotiations. If the worst happens the contract will be lost.
The Western European perception of rational argumentation methods as dealt with on numerous sales training courses will not be successful with your Japanese contemporaries. Many Japanese have only a limited knowledge of English so ask the interpreter whether any further explanation or detailed exposition is desired.
If possible, support your presentation with diagrams, tables and charts. Pass your associates copies of these papers so their concentration will not be broken by taking notes. Japanese people rate precise information.
The more detailed and precise your presentation is, the fewer doubts your partners will have about the carefulness of your preparation and your sincerity.
The Negotiating Phases
In many negotiations with Japanese a great deal more concessions were made by the Western side than originally planned. Why?
We rely too much on our ability to convince the customer with logical arguments. Inexperienced people are continually surprised by the stillness and immobility of Far Eastern negotiating partners. Instead of opposing arguments with counter-arguments in the Western manner, they maintain a thoughtful silence.
The Japanese are never the first to make concessions: they are only prepared to make compromises when their negotiating associate has moved a stage.
Japanese hate pressure of time! They strictly refuse to conclude their negotiations by a set time or date. They negotiate unsystematically and take a long time. Our style of ticking off points one by one is alien to them.
These different conceptions often lead to serious annoyance or even anger. Always remain calm and composed, even if the other side are even now demanding a 25% reduction in price! Agitation and consternation are regarded as personal weaknesses in Japan. Partners in business who fail to keep a grip on themselves in negotiations are judged to be unreliable.
Never deliberately attack a member of a Japanese delegation! The Japanese feel and act as a group and have no sympathy for this kind of thing.
The Concluding Phase
The basic prerequisites for a successful conclusion are therefore a very good preparation with broad background knowledge, patience and self-control. Even more important, though, is the realisation that you will not be able to convince the Japanese with strict logic! As taught on good sales training courses, flexibility and the accurate understanding of non-verbal signals and a controlled manner that is fitting for the circumstances, are much better than any logic!
About The Author
Richard Stone is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that runs management and sales training courses that improve business performance. You can view more articles at => http://www.spearhead-training.co.uk
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