This electronic instrument manufacturer's products were distributed in Japan by a large trading company based in Tokyo that had an entire division focused on selling electronic instruments. Yet sales volume was not developing to anywhere near the levels expected of such a large market. There was constant talk of how things were going to improve, but the improvements never materialized.
HTM's involvement uncovered a lack of marketing programs specifically designed to increase sales. In cooperation with the home office, a plan was drawn up by HTM for the Tokyo operation that added direct mail and seminars to the existing trade shows. The trading company was reluctant to implement change, but agreed that some portions of the plan might help. But as time went by no action took place.
Finally, the home office decided to take control of their marketing effort with the assistance of HTM and fund the program directly. This new program produced many leads from existing and first-time customers. Sales began to increase after several years of stagnation.
Once the initial marketing effort was underway, HTM was retained as a liaison office to hold periodic meetings with the distributor specifically to facilitate communications with the home office. This effort significantly increased the visibility of the home office into their Japan business, allowing them to contribute their marketing and support expertise to a much greater extent.
This company had always noticed that after an initial flurry of orders for new products the order rate would slow down to disappointingly low levels. Through HTM's work as a liaison office it became clear that the distributor had very little understanding of the new products even though they had attended training sessions. This lack of understanding made selling difficult, particularly when there were competitors. Once this problem was recognized it was relatively easy to provide the additional training.
HTM's experience working with Japanese subsidiaries has shown that this problem is very common. Because of language difficulties, very little is communicated to Japanese salespeople attending international sales training sessions. Instead, training programs specifically set up for Japanese staff are essential. These programs are best done with trainers who have themselves been trained to work with people who are learning about new complex products in a second language and find it difficult to speak up and say they do not understand. When language problems are overcome, complex new products can be quickly introduced into Japan, a tremendous benefit in establishing a company as a leader in its field.