Know your customer — a lesson from two cultures

I’ve just left Japan after a few days meeting with partners, press, and vendors (writing my post at 38,000 feet). I think the Japanese country and culture are amazing. It constantly amazes me how differences in culture can have such a profound effect on business success. Specifically, look at the outbound telemarketing segment.

In the U.S., you can call a company and typically get to a receptionist who will give you the name of an individual if you ask. For example, “Can you tell me the name of the person who runs your HR department?” In Japan, the receptionist will NEVER give out names.

Looking for a direct number? In the U.S. the auto attendant will often announce that to you as it attempts to connect your call. In Japan, you would typically be dealing with a receptionist, not an auto attendant and he or she would transfer you to the department without disclosing any direct numbers.

If the person you are looking for in the U.S. isn’t available, you’ll most likely get voicemail. In Japan, someone will pick up the department line, but won’t take a message.

In the U.S. if you reach a person in the right department, but he or she isn’t who you really need, they will often give you a referral. (i.e. “You need to speak to Jim.”) In Japan the department contact will typically NOT give you a referral.

Those are some pretty dramatic differences. If you don’t do business in Japan, you’re probably close to ending your read of this post. Before you go, I’ll tell you why you should care and why it most likely still applies to you. The answer lies in knowing your customer or potential customer.

If you are calling on doctors, your approach and the rules of engagement are different than if you are calling on construction managers. The rules for CIOs are different than the rules for IT managers. Non-profits vs. rapid-growth companies; long-lead purchases vs. impulse buys. So, one size does not fit all. As you design calling scripts and implement calling rules, it is important to analyze your target. What they like and how they want to be engaged. This additional understanding, if applied, will play heavily in how successful you are.

Joe Staples – Sayonara, Arigato!