We’ve received various inquiries in our inbox from overseas companies wanting to know about our services. After reading the emails, we began to notice that many of them mentioned an interested in developing their products and services for the Japanese market and had participated, some several times, in exhibitions held in Japan. However, despite their efforts, most mentioned that they had been unable to get any business leads in Japan.
From what we could gather, it seemed that the biggest problem for these companies was not only the different styles of business negotiations between their countries and Japan, but also communication with the Japanese. Although we don’t know the exact details about what types of buyers they encountered or how they attempted to conduct negotiations, it seems likely that there were some misunderstandings due to the fact that both sides were communicating using English as a second language. Even for us, communicating in English with clients from non-English speaking countries sometimes results in misunderstanding or confusion. If we were able to work with each client in his or her native language, business would probably run fairly smoothly, but obviously this would be difficult.
There are likely a number of reasons why these clients’ business negotiations never progressed, however one of the problems may have been that the Japanese side never flat out refused. In many cases, communication ends prematurely and some hope is all that remains.
Problems such as these have probably continued from a long time ago. The language barrier isn’t something that will break negotiations right away, but it’s important for both sides to put effort into understanding each other. Especially for communication over the internet, which is mainly written word, it seems that an even greater effort must be made.
As a third-party observer, we aren’t entirely sure what may have happened to these companies who sent us inquiries, but we’ve received a number of similar ones which leads us to believe that some type of problem does indeed exist. Certainly, no matter what type of “communication” you are involved in, leaving things up in the air can’t be good. Hopefully, this will begin to change for the better.