Best Way To Contact Japanese Distributors If You Don’t Speak Japanese

Some “experts” on doing business in Japan say that cold calling Japanese companies doesn’t work. They insist that the only effective way to approach these companies is through a personal introduction.

This is nonsense.

We’ve contacted hundreds of Japanese distributors on behalf of clients and find most very interested in hearing about products that complement the brands that they are already carrying.

This makes sense if you stop to think about it.

Any savvy distributor knows that the best way to increase their sales is to find additional products to offer their existing customers. Tell them about quality products selling at a fair price and they’ll be all ears.

So what’s the best way to approach potential Japanese sales partners?

Calling them on the telephone doesn’t work because the person answering the phone at most Japanese companies usually don’t speak English speak very well.

Sending a message to the email address you find on their site is a little better but there is no guarantee that your email will get to the person you need to reach. In fact, these companies are usually so overwhelmed with spam that your message may be will be overlooked or deleted without getting the attention it deserves.

A fax may work but again there’s no guarantee that it will reach the right decision maker.

The best way to “cold call” Japanese companies if you don’t speak Japanese is to send these companies a package containing:

  1. A cover letter spelling out all the reasons why the distributor should consider doing business with you. (I’ll talk more about what to say in this letter tomorrow.)
  2. Product samples, brochures, technical materials, etc., to give the package some heft and substance.

Sending something by mail, or even better by FedEx, shows you are serious about doing business with the company. This willingness to go the extra mile is valued in Japanese culture and will make your company stand out from all the email messages and faxes they receive.

Send this package to the president of the company unless you have already identified a better contact. Most distributors are fairly small and in most cases the president is actively involved in deciding which products to carry.

We use a different approach in our client engagements though.

We first work with the client to come up with key sales messages for their products and company.

We translate these points into a calling script and then call the identified companies in Japanese to identify the best person for the client to contact.

As I mentioned in a previous message, distributors usually have one or more individuals assigned the task of dealing with the foreign companies they represent. Our goal in talking directly with these individuals is to presell them on the client’s products and determine their initial level of interest.

Next article: How to convince potential distributors to carry your products.

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