The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


February 2014

Strategies in Sales

Group provides information, training, and networking

By Megan Waters

Established in 2001, the Sales Development Committee now has some 150 members, marking a 20 percent year-on-year increase.

According to the committee vice chair, Eric Wedemeyer, the function-based committee has a wide reach and focuses on providing participants with tangible business benefits.

“Virtually every ACCJ member company engages in sales, so our activities are relevant to an exceptionally broad portion of the membership,” Wedemeyer explained.

The committee provides three main benefits for its members.

  • Information. This enables members to find out what is happening in markets and sales arenas through speaker events and annual surveys.
  • Training. These opportunities give members a chance to brush up on sales-related skills.
  • Networking. All events are designed to provide networking opportunities, and often include participation by other chambers.

On December 17, the committee held a successful luncheon, at which the topic “From Zero to a Billion Dollars: The Road to Success for adidas Japan” was discussed. Looking ahead, the group plans to hold numerous speaker events, training sessions, a networking event, and committee organizational meetings.

“The speaker events will continue to feature executives from leading companies, focusing mainly on sales strategies that have worked for them in Japan,” said Carlo La Porta, co-chair of the committee.

Also in December, the group conducted an inaugural survey on the State of Sales Development in Japan. The 42 respondents—comprising committee and non-committee members—share a special interest in sales development issues and represent a broad spectrum of industries.

According to La Porta, the survey provides benchmarks for international sales executives looking for guidance on how to improve the effectiveness of their sales activities in Japan.

“The results underlined the importance of high-quality, skilled sales staff in achieving sales objectives in Japan,” said Thomas Shockley, co-chair of the committee.

“Many of the companies noted concerns about staff hiring and training, and were especially keen to improve communications and basic sales skills.

“Respondents were optimistic overall, and many noted that their sales were growing and that they planned to add additional sales staff,” he said.

Key results:

  • A majority (61 percent) of respondents said sales had risen over the previous three years.
  • Asked where they planned to increase investment in their sales operations over the next year, respondents mostly said they would add sales staff (56 percent), followed by those who anticipated increasing brand- and awareness-building activities, such as advertising (54 percent).

The least likely targets for additional investment included current sales staff compensation (33 percent) and direct sales activities, such as online sales (36 percent).

  • Companies with more than 10 staff were most concerned about maintaining price levels (33 percent consider this a major problem), as well as motivating and training current staff (22 percent).

Companies with 10 sales staff or less were more worried about recruiting staff with the right skills (a major issue for 44 percent), as well as identifying and reaching qualified leads (38 percent).

  • When asked to consider sales challenges specific to doing business in Japan, respondents were most concerned about hiring (“finding staff to fit our culture,” a major difficulty for 20 percent), building trust with Japanese clients (9 percent), and creating understanding between Japanese sales staff and non-Japanese management (9 percent).