Common Mistakes

Finding Japanese Distributors Using Government Services

Many clients come to us after unsuccessfully trying to find Japanese sales partners using the matchmaking services provided by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, UK Department for International Trade, The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Austrade, German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, and Switzerland Global Enterprise. Why are these government agencies rarely successful in helping foreign companies connect with the right Japanese distributors or sales agents? I’ve talked with dozens of clients from all around the world about …

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Do You Need “Connections” To Find The Right Japanese Distributor?

I’m often asked by new clients if we have experience in their industry. The underlying belief here seems to be that you need “connections” to do business with Japanese companies or need to “know someone” in order for distributors in Japan to take you seriously. This is simply not true. We have cold-called thousands of Japanese distributors and I can say with great confidence that the vast majority of Japanese distributors are extremely open to hearing about new business opportunities… …

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How To Evaluate Japanese Distributors

When evaluating Japanese distributors, it’s easy to ignore companies that don’t have much English on their websites. This is a big mistake! In my experience, there is NO relationship between having an English-language site and being an effective distributor. This is because the best distributors are focused on their Japanese customers, not on attracting foreign companies who want to do business with them. And, as I discussed yesterday, if a company is already distributing one or more non-Japanese products, they …

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Do Japanese Distributors Speak English?

Clients also often ask whether they’ll have trouble communicating with potential Japanese distributors and agents and wonder if they’ll need an interpreter or translator to do business in Japan. In our experience, this isn’t necessary because distributors that are already importing and distributing foreign products almost always have employees who can speak English.   For smaller companies, this is usually the president or sales manager. In larger firms, there will be one or more employees assigned the task of working …

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How to Avoid “Zombie” Japanese Distributors

In the previous article, we looked at how foreign products are distributed in the Japanese market. In this article, I’m going to talk about another common mistake that foreign companies often make in Japan. This is the mistake of going with the first distributor that shows interest in their product. Let me share with you part of an email I received from a company in Europe: XYZ has been been our rep in Japan for three years but so far …

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How Japanese Distributors Of Foreign Products Operate

A common mistake many foreign companies new to Japan make is trying to sell to the large Japanese wholesalers and retailer chains in their industry. Unfortunately these companies are rarely interested in dealing directly with non-Japanese suppliers unless they have an office in Japan. So what the best way to sell your products in Japan? Simple. You go through Japanese distributors specializing in imported products. There are thousands of these distributors and they are typically nimble, highly entrepreneurial companies who …

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