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B2B Sales for Non-Sales Founders 🇯🇵
Episode 41st March 2023 • Founded In Japan • Paul Chapman / Jason Ball
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Many founders begin their startup journey without formal sales training or experience. In this episode, hosts Paul Chapman, Jason Ball, Nalin Advani, Ilya Kulyatin, and guests, discuss the fundamentals of B to B sales for founders needing to rapidly acquire sales expertise in order to succeed.

💌 Contact hosts Jason and Paul on the Business In Japan group on LinkedIn

🫵 Follow us on Clubhouse to join our next live recording

Transcripts

Shiba Inu:

Welcome to Founded In Japan, where we share uncommon knowledge about starting up.

Shiba Inu:

Many founders begin their startup journey without formal sales training or experience.

Shiba Inu:

In this episode, hosts Paul Chapman, Jason Ball, Nalin Advani, Ilya Kulyatin and guests, discuss the fundamentals of B2B sales for founders needing to rapidly acquire sales expertise in order to succeed.

Shiba Inu:

Founded In Japan is recorded live on Clubhouse.

Shiba Inu:

Audio for some speakers may be degraded at times, nonetheless, we hope you find the content to be valuable throughout.

Shiba Inu:

Do you have a question or topic request?

Shiba Inu:

Please reach out to us on the Business In Japan LinkedIn group.

Shiba Inu:

Thanks for joining us, and here we go...

Paul:

It occurs to me that everyone knows a little bit about sales, but very few people know end-to-end how the process works.

Paul:

Jason, Nalin, Ilya, will you indulge me to go through this framework that I just came up with about an hour ago?

Paul:

It's literally a mental download of "how do we do sales?

Paul:

what have I learned about sales?"

Paul:

I'm currently heading up sales at Moneytree, uh, in the interim, but we have two great director level people actually doing the hard work of leading the teams day to day.

Paul:

And I've gotta say the last 5 years, I have learned a lot about sales.

Paul:

So I I often talk about people who are 'sales only' and people who are 'sales also'.

Paul:

And the truth is, you'd need a good serving of 'sales only' people, but at the right stage.

Jason:

More than just indulge you, I think there'd be a lot of people in the audience and myself, who'd like to hear your download.

Paul:

All right.

Paul:

This is definitely an alpha version, uh, of what might be a future blog post or something.

Paul:

Let's get started, so I'm breaking it down into 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different stages.

Paul:

And I'm going to just preface this by saying, yes, this is wrong.

Paul:

This is a perspective, this is a treatment.

Paul:

But maybe just, maybe it will be helpful.

Paul:

Stage one is prospecting.

Paul:

This is the idea that you have in mind of a salesperson trying to give you their business card at an event, when we had business cards and in-real life events, they're creating connections.

Paul:

As my dear mother would say, you've gotta kiss a lot of frogs to meet Prince Charming.

Paul:

Sales is just the same.

Paul:

You have to do a lot of the same thing.

Paul:

Has anyone seen Groundhog Day?

Paul:

Has anyone not seen the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day?

Paul:

I don't know how well that movie has aged, however, sales is like that.

Paul:

Sales is not about smarter.

Paul:

Sales is about harder or more.

Paul:

And the truth is, you don't know which ones are going to work and you don't know which ones are going to fail.

Paul:

A little bit like venture investing.

Paul:

So prospecting, meeting people, creating connections, following leads, and getting that first meeting.

Paul:

When you have uploaded the 'sales only' mindset into your Matrix connected brain.

Paul:

Everyone remembers this, I know kung fu, I know Jiujitsu, I believe was the comment when he had martial arts uploaded for the first time.

Paul:

If only we could do this with sales because it's less about hard knowledge, it's more about tacit knowledge.

Paul:

It's more about knowing the meta pattern of sales.

Paul:

So getting that first meeting when you meet someone, or the marketing team hands across an MQL, a marketing qualified lead, maybe it comes in through the website, maybe, uh an investor introduces you to someone who's interested in your product.

Paul:

You get that first meeting.

Paul:

It used to start on the phone.

Paul:

I got taught a long time ago, and I was definitely not old school , you can't close a deal on email.

Paul:

But, you almost never pick up a phone these days until you actually meet them.

Paul:

So you've gotta convince someone to wanna meet with you, and right now on Zoom or Hangouts or Teams.

Paul:

Getting that first meeting, so that's the first stage prospecting.

Paul:

When you get to that first meeting, all you're thinking about is, of course, you know, I want to help this potential customer.

Paul:

I wanna help someone solve a problem.

Paul:

But the truth is you're thinking, can this become a deal?

Paul:

Now you've gotta have this dual mindset of, you're in a service industry now, you're helping someone make a purchase, but at the same time, you're carrying a number as a salesperson.

Paul:

And if you're a CEO, or a C-level in a startup, you are also carrying a number.

Paul:

And if you don't make that number, fundraising will be harder, you may run out of money, you may have to go and, ugh, get a J-O-B I I don't mind J-O-B's, I I give out a lot of them.

Paul:

But you don't really want to have the story of your startup end because you couldn't figure out how to sell or you couldn't find the right people to help you sell.

Paul:

That would be the worst.

Paul:

Let's get back to stage two, creating a deal.

Paul:

You've gotta establish relevance, and show how you provide value, and there's a lot of social signaling when you do this.

Paul:

The most important thing you can learn at this stage is how to ask questions, how to listen.

Paul:

... that was a pregnant pause to show you I could listen.

Paul:

I can say this, at least, I know the kinds of questions I need to ask.

Paul:

I know the things I needed to check off on my list in order to get to that next step.

Paul:

It's it's like a date.

Paul:

You have to signal that you're relevant.

Paul:

You have to signal that you'll provide them with value.

Paul:

No one wants to give up their time for something that doesn't give them.

Paul:

Otherwise, you're just hoping your prospect will be charitable and perhaps, give you their time.

Paul:

But if they have no budget, if they have no inclination to buy, if they just want a friend to talk to, you are wasting your only valuable asset as a salesperson, which is your time.

Paul:

So creating a deal, establish relevance, and also establish a foundation for long-term trust.

Paul:

So what you do in the early stages says a lot to your prospective customer.

Paul:

As a founder who met lots and lots of vendors, the worst thing that they could possibly do is get in touch and then ignore me for a long time, or act like their time is more valuable than mine, or that they're not really into this and you know, it's a great inconvenience for them to meet with me.

Paul:

Or to bring me something that isn't relevant but sometimes they get lucky.

Paul:

Sometimes people contact me and it's like, I'm looking for something like this, oh my God, how did you know?

Paul:

You read by mind.

Paul:

Establishing that foundation for long-term trust comes from those first few interactions.

Paul:

So prospecting, creating a deal, that's stage one and two.

Paul:

Stage three, helping the client to buy.

Paul:

Your job is not to sell, it's to help someone buy.

Paul:

Why?

Paul:

Because you want them to be happy that they bought it from you, you don't wanna push it onto them.

Paul:

You don't wanna be transactional.

Paul:

You wanna sell once and retain them.

Paul:

I would imagine most people are thinking about software services, or even if it's hardware, some kind of service component attached.

Paul:

No one wants to do the one time sell anymore, everyone wants to do recurring revenue business, because that's what investors like.

Paul:

I'll reference the Jobs To Be Done framework.

Paul:

This idea that customers, people, you, me, businesses, companies, we hire a product or a service to solve a problem for us.

Paul:

So this is called Jobs To Be Done.

Paul:

It's a product management, product design framework.

Paul:

Think about it from a sales perspective.

Paul:

You have to solve a problem with the technology that you have, and ideally, and this is more for the salespeople than for the product founders out there, try not to create new engineering requirements by doing so.

Paul:

If you create new requirements and you can then sell it to another thousand customers, that's the kind of requirement a head of engineering wants to hear about.

Paul:

You know, the custom bit of work for one client?

Paul:

People hate that because it's not scalable.

Paul:

But today we're talking not about product for salespeople, but sales for product and other non-sales people.

Paul:

So Jobs To Be Done, think about what you're solving for them.

Paul:

Identify their challenges.

Paul:

You know, how can you solve a valuable problem for them?

Paul:

They may not even know what that valuable problem is.

Paul:

And I'm going to share really, really useful insight.

Paul:

In a company, especially a traditional company, an older company, oftentimes everyone will rally around an idea, also known as a buzzword.

Paul:

And as much as buzzwords are given short shrift in startup land, although we use them all the time, a buzzword is a shortcut for mutual understanding.

Paul:

So if they're looking for a FinTech or they're looking for DeFi, or they're looking for internet of things, or they're looking for something else, SaaS.

Paul:

You can leverage that opening and that shared understanding and that shared desire to get the organization to do what you want.

Paul:

And this is perhaps more relevant in Japan than everywhere else.

Paul:

You don't sell to the person, you sell to the organization.

Paul:

Now, there are a lot of sales frameworks and books out there that talk about this stuff, so I won't go into it too much, in too much detail.

Paul:

But just remember, you may have one guy or one gal who really really loves what you do, but if they leave, that account is in jeopardy, or if they don't have the power to make the sale, maybe you'll be spending a lot of time and not closing.

Paul:

So helping them buy a solution, that's stages one, two, and three.

Paul:

Now, stage four is supporting the client's onboarding, and this is about clarifying communication.

Paul:

So what are the client's expectations?

Paul:

By now, as a salesperson, you should know better than anyone at your company what the client wants.

Paul:

You've spoken to them, you've held their hand, you've told them it'll be okay.

Paul:

So, post sales, I suppose when the delivery team, implementation team gets their hand on the client, do they mess it up?

Paul:

Do they do something different?

Paul:

Was there some special requirement that you didn't communicate to them?

Paul:

So preventing dissonance, or another word for it is unmet expectations, is the salesperson's job.

Paul:

You wanna smooth those rough edges, and then guess what?

Paul:

This may be a revelation to a lot of people who haven't done sales.

Paul:

As the salesperson, it's your job to make sure they pay!

Paul:

That wonderful client that you spend all this time with, if they haven't paid their invoice, guess who's getting on the phone?

Paul:

It's not going to be accounting, it's going to be you.

Paul:

And that's hard, salespeople always wanna be the good guy, right?

Paul:

But you've gotta remember, the number one team is your team in the company, not the customer.

Paul:

And this is a common problem I hear in Japan, "client capture", where the salesperson identifies more with their customer than with their own company.

Paul:

There's another view to this, which is the salesperson will go to another company one day most likely, and they want that to be their customer then as well.

Paul:

So in some ways, loyalty to the customer, will outlive loyalty to the employer.

Paul:

That's a crazy thing to think about!

Paul:

Stage one prospecting, stage two, creating that deal, stage three, helping the client buy a solution.

Paul:

Stage four, supporting their, the client's onboarding, and then the last one is not really part of the sales cycle, but this is a really important thing, and this is where everyone who's not on the sales side or perhaps on the marketing side needs to really open their ears.

Paul:

Sales represents the voice of the customer in your organization more than anyone else, even more than customer success.

Paul:

Because customer success talks to customers happy enough to buy a product.

Paul:

Sales talks to people who didn't end up becoming customers, the ones who were dissatisfied with the service or didn't like the product enough, and that may represent an opportunity.

Paul:

This is a challenging thing for founders and C-level people.

Paul:

Sales will often bring bad news and complain about how the product isn't good enough, and your job is to figure out where they're right and where they're wrong, and also to deal with the fact that they think they're always right.

Paul:

That's a hard one, but you know what?

Paul:

If your team's winning, they'll feel better.

Paul:

So In a B2B organization, sales is closest to the customer.

Paul:

Your CTO, your Chief of Product, may think they know better what the customer wants, but only the sales team actually talks to the customer every single day, most likely.

Paul:

A company ... it's like a submarine.

Paul:

Everyone in the submarine, depending on their position, has, I guess some visibility.

Paul:

Maybe there's a porthole.

Paul:

You might have a radar or a sonar or maps or satellite imaging.

Paul:

But only one person can look through the periscope, at a given time.

Paul:

The sales team are the ones looking through the periscope.

Paul:

They have that view of the customer, and their job is to share that with everyone else.

ownload with this one thought:

product founders commonly lament that sales teams rarely know exactly how things should run; although salespeople often say they do.

ownload with this one thought:

Sales teams sure as hell know when things are going wrong.

ownload with this one thought:

I speak from experience.

ownload with this one thought:

Jason, Nalin and Ilya what did you think?

Ilya:

That was long.

Paul:

Tell me what you really thought Ilya.

Ilya:

No, no.

Ilya:

I, I, I thought it...

Paul:

I warned you.

Paul:

I warned you.

Ilya:

I think This needs to be split in all five parts and require probably one, uh, one evening each.

Paul:

What I wanted to do was give non-sales founders, I guess a framework, an overview to think of.

l, I'll talk about the stages:

prospecting, creating the deal, helping the client buy, supporting the client's onboarding, and representing the voice of the customer.

l, I'll talk about the stages:

These are the key stages.

l, I'll talk about the stages:

We don't have to talk about all of them.

l, I'll talk about the stages:

I just wanted to start with something that everyone could refer to, in case they have never done sales before.

Nalin:

For me, the one that really sticks out and the one that I think embodies the most difficult aspects of selling, as well as kind of encompasses the range of activities is the one that says helping the customer buy.

Nalin:

That's the most difficult one, and the most nuanced one, and in a sense, the most undefined one as well.

Jason:

A good way to start.

Paul:

Alright, so we're going to drill down into 'helping the client buy'.

Paul:

As Nalin pointed out, this is the most wide ranging and perhaps most important part of selling B2B.

Paul:

Who would like to start with, I guess with the obvious, if you're a non-sales founder, should you, should you try and sell?

Paul:

Or is this, "do not try this at home, ladies and gentlemen" type of stuff?

Ilya:

But as they say usually, right, the founders should be also the first ones to be salespeople in a startup.

Ilya:

So I guess even technical founders should start to sell.

Ilya:

Interestingly, they usually don't know where to start.

Nalin:

To me the punchline really is that sales is a team effort, and even more so in B2B.

Nalin:

If you're the founder or like in Paul's question, would you put the CTO in front of the customer and have him sell?

Nalin:

I really think there's roles for each person to play, and part of it is, and this is why it's difficult, is getting each person to learn their role and in a sense, getting each person to stay in that role that they're supposed to be in.

Nalin:

I do remember talking about this in one of our, Sunday morning, Japanese ones where I had two founders, one a CTO and one a CEO.

Nalin:

At that time I was running the Japan organization and we were very careful where we would put these guys in terms of being in front of the customer or the public, because one, the customers loved him, but he would also go off and promise stuff that he shouldn't be promising.

Nalin:

And the other one, customers didn't like him, but actually he knew what he was doing.

Nalin:

While it's a team effort, perhaps the first step that the team has to take is define and understand their own skillsets and roles.

Nalin:

Sorry if I'm taking us a little bit off track, from the point you had asked.

Nalin:

But I do honestly think it's a team effort.

Ilya:

That, that's actually a great point, and I face this problem in the current and previous startup, where I tend to be the one that, is, maybe slightly more likable on the sales side, but there is the need for the person that, that knows the timing of the execution.

Ilya:

For instance, one example very recent with IoT startup.

Ilya:

It always helps to have one of the co-founders uh, during the initial client calls, because clients want to see this technical guy who knows what he's talking about, not just somebody with no particular technical experience in that area.

Ilya:

I do agree with Nalin, both of the, uh, profiles would need to be present, at least at the startup stage, where you still need to create that credibility, and still both need to understand the product.

Ilya:

Because it takes time to understand the product even when you are one of the co-founders, if you're on a less technical side.

Paul:

Ilya that's, that's a good point.

Paul:

In a more mature sales team, you have the sales person, you have the pre-sales engineer.

Paul:

So the pre-sales engineer tends to do the technical validation, answering questions, knowing the products very technically, those people very rarely can maintain the relationship to the point of getting the deal closed.

Paul:

They're very different skillsets.

Paul:

You're absolutely right having a technical CEO, or CTO in the early days makes a lot of sense.

Paul:

Later on, it's not very scalable to keep doing that, except maybe for really big deals or uncharted territory.

Paul:

You need someone who really has broad knowledge of the space and of the product.

Paul:

Would you have that same person, that one person tasked with closing the deals?

Paul:

Because there, there's a big difference between an opener and a closer.

Paul:

A lot of marketing people are wonderful openers, but they don't know how to close.

Paul:

And it's because, it's a different mindset to some extent.

Paul:

I am radically oversimplifying.

Ilya:

While Paul was talking about these five points, I had this thought...

Ilya:

I recall that Francisco, who is also in the audience, he asked me last week, now that he has some sort of an MVP, what's the roadmap to get the first client?

Ilya:

So my question would be.

Ilya:

What would you say is the roadmap for an enterprise sale in Japan?

Paul:

Nalin, would you like to have the first shot at this?

Nalin:

Thanks, so a roadmap to enterprise sales in Japan.

Nalin:

There's multiple things happening, I think.

Nalin:

One is if you already have an investor, and the investor is connected to an enterprise customer even better.

Nalin:

If the investor is a CVC, then you can call in a favor or two, and have somebody be a paying or almost paying customer.

Nalin:

In my way of looking at things, that's the ideal way, because the cost of sales is less and the likelihood of success in that initial effort is much higher.

Nalin:

So I think this is the ideal scenario.

Nalin:

Never, always goes that way, but, the next best option I think is if it's a new technology, then there will be sometimes, uh consortia or industry associations, and somewhere in there you have, using Jeffrey Moore's classic Crossing the Chasm model, you'll have a few early adopter types who are more interested in checking out the new technology than in, actually having a successful, perfect implementation.

Nalin:

So then finding one of those, connecting to one of those.

Nalin:

And that very much comes through also a networking and relationship effort.

Nalin:

That person is quite likely to onboard you, maybe as a paying customer again, maybe as an almost paying customer.

Nalin:

And then I think, if neither of these two are possible, then you have to beg.

Nalin:

And when you do that, usually it means you get your first customer as a non-paying customer, but in all three of these scenarios, I think the point I really wanna make is in Japan especially, you need this magic word, which is 'jisseki' or a track record.

Nalin:

So whatever it takes to get that first customer, even if it means he's not going to pay, is super important because that's what's going to land you your second and third customer.

Nalin:

The fact that you have somebody who's using you, hopefully he's using you and he's happy with what you've given him.

Nalin:

Hopefully if you can get him on board that helping the client buy piece, then it's more about getting them to maybe pay and then, getting them to continue paying, if they haven't paid for their first year.

Nalin:

So that's I would describe my approach to this, but of course there's so many people up here on the stage and I'd like to ask, everybody else how they feel about this.

Ilya:

And we have also some new guests, Maurizio, Francisco, Rohit.

Maurizio Raffone:

Hey guys.

Maurizio Raffone:

I could personally talk for hours about this.

Maurizio Raffone:

Actually, I slightly de disagree with Nalin, I think you should never do anything for free.

Maurizio Raffone:

I mean, ever.

Maurizio Raffone:

Particularly because, Mitsubishi UFJ is not going to ask you to do anything for free.

Maurizio Raffone:

The kind of companies they're likely to ask you to do stuff for free are the ones you probably don't wanna work with or for.

Maurizio Raffone:

I do agree that you can definitely consider heavily discounted first client type relationships or promotions, but free is, uh, gets me, gets me itchy.

Maurizio Raffone:

Just a couple points I wanted to bring up on this topic.

Maurizio Raffone:

How you get your first sale, or your first and second sale.

Maurizio Raffone:

I think one thing that is really important, is to just be out there, right?

Maurizio Raffone:

Meaning depending on the stage of your startup and the stage of your MVP, you should go for hackathons, startup programs, accelerator programs, competitions, you really need to do very active outreach.

Maurizio Raffone:

Whether you are salesy as a person or not, you just got to get over the hump, and you need to tell the world what you're doing, because a lot of these programs are sponsored by companies.

Maurizio Raffone:

They're looking out for solutions to their problems.

Maurizio Raffone:

So check the problem statements and the topics of the challenges, and make sure that they are something that your technology addresses, and does it in a way that makes sense for, uh, whoever the audience is.

Maurizio Raffone:

But we found in our, case that B2B sales have an incredibly long sales cycle.

Maurizio Raffone:

But if we participate in a program and we did well, we got in touch directly with the right people at the organization that we wanted to reach.

Maurizio Raffone:

So that's definitely one way.

Maurizio Raffone:

The other thing is now the startup world is so diverse.

Maurizio Raffone:

You have startups that are essentially must billion dollar companies that have a lot of cash.

Maurizio Raffone:

And what's interesting to me is that there's a whole host of companies doing extremely well just selling to other startups, and selling them automation services, and all sorts of software as a service type products.

Maurizio Raffone:

Whenever we're thinking about b2b, you need to have that lateral thinking of trying to capture as many businesses that are suitable for your solution as possible.

Maurizio Raffone:

Not just, the brand names, because those are going to be the ones that everyone wants to go for.

Maurizio Raffone:

So have a little bit of creativity in that part of the process.

Paul:

I would second that never do anything for free.

Paul:

Ever, ever, ever.

Paul:

On the other hand, you can do things like just take money, once I had.

Paul:

We had a client that used the service for a long time in a very narrow way.

Paul:

They paid us once.

Paul:

It was $10,000, but it was once.

Paul:

And they paid us with what's called a 'tegata' in Japanese, this is a promissory note.

Paul:

So we didn't even get the money straight away.

Paul:

And we had to sell the 'tegata', the promissory note back to their promissory note buying company at a discount.

Paul:

It was quite the scam.

Paul:

It was of course, a very large company that they could get away with squashing their, uh, the suppliers like this.

Paul:

But we were happy to be squashed cuz, we wanted what Nalin was suggesting, which is get that first name, get someone big, get a logo that will validate you.

Paul:

So we took it!

Paul:

It was actually pretty good.

Paul:

We had their logo for a long time.

Paul:

Selling to startups is definitely a thing in Silicon Valley . I would say an emergent thing in Japan, meaning that if your goal is to sell to startups and you're not a recruiting company in Japan, then it's probably still a pretty small market, but it is growing.

Paul:

And more and more young, non-start companies, so non-high growth, but newish companies are using the same tech stacks as startups.

Paul:

They're using G-Suite, they're using Teams.

Paul:

They're using Zoom.

Paul:

They're using Slack.

Paul:

So this means that if you start building for startups and young, but non startupy companies, well together, that's a bigger demographic, but it's still just a drop in the ocean in Japan compared to...

Paul:

I was speaking to someone today, he called a "chan-to shita kaisha".

Paul:

If you don't speak Japanese means "proper companies".

Paul:

I think he met ones that have been around for a while.

Maurizio Raffone:

Yeah, I take your point, Paul, but again, we're talking about the early traction.

Maurizio Raffone:

So I think, going down there, route know may not be as popular in Japan.

Paul:

This is a common trope in, uh, Silicon Valley.

Paul:

I used to think, wow, this company got Google as a customer.

Paul:

No, this company got a team or a person at Google to become their customer and probably didn't even ask for permission to use the Google logo on their website.

Paul:

And I guess in their eminent benevolence, Google doesn't crack down on that.

Paul:

But yeah, I guess if you could get like Mercari or Moneytree or other leading startups to be one of your first customers, that that still counts.

Paul:

That definitely counts.

Ilya:

I wanted to mention this one thing.

Ilya:

So I do agree with what Maurizio says about selling to startups, so why that also can help, so the startup that I'm helping now, it was very insignificant sale to a local startup.

Ilya:

And it'll never be a big contract, but it helps, it also helps to understand if the product is actually needed.

Ilya:

This particular sale, it resulted in, this user, the C T O, organizing a call with one of their investors because he was so happy with the product that he wanted to pitch it to his investor because he wanted this to have a funding so that he wouldn't need in the future to deal with with this problem himself.

Ilya:

So it helps also get to get this exposure to understand if the product is actually useful.

Ilya:

So even small sales are great in the beginning.

Nalin:

That's exactly why I was saying sometimes you have to do this for free because if you get caught in a negotiation, which could slow down the adoption of the technology or the product or the service that may, what you just described may never have happened, right?

Nalin:

And so you wanna get to that stage where you have people who are now selling for you.

Nalin:

And in Japanese there's this interesting saying, which is, actually there's two versions of it.

Nalin:

I'll try and say the Japanese first and then the English.

Nalin:

"Tada hodo kowai mono ga nai", which means "there's nothing as scary as something that's free".

Nalin:

And then there's a second version of it, which is, "tada hodo takai mono ga nai", which is, "there's nothing as expensive as something that you get for free".

Nalin:

So when I say you need to do something for free, I'm looking at the total value of that relationship and not just the value of that initial transaction and hoping that first, even if you are selling for free or near free, that the time and speed you gain by doing this will more than compensate for a perceived loss on the first deal.

Ilya:

I need to write those down.

Ilya:

Great phrases.

Francisco Soares:

Hey guys.

Francisco Soares:

Thanks so much.

Francisco Soares:

Francisco here.

Francisco Soares:

So a quick question and I think that the topic came up before, but, as Nalin was talking about this first client and there was a lot of discussions between doing things for free or not.

Francisco Soares:

Does a POC count as a first client?

Francisco Soares:

Can you use the, would you guys use a logo of a company for whom you're doing a POC as a first client?

Ilya:

I would say yeah, definitely you can use it.

Ilya:

The POC is still, it's showing credibility if you get a good brand to put on your website.

Ilya:

Obviously you can, you should also try to sell it, because lots of startups face death by POC, so if you do just lots of those without actually converting the clients, then it doesn't make sense.

Ilya:

Initially, I would be more than fine with creating POCs and showing that big clients trust you.

Ilya:

But I think the value in the beginning is the value of a brand on your website, on your product is, higher than what you're actually getting out of it.

Paul:

If you can't make a proper sale, a POC may be something you consider, but don't pivot into the business of POCs.

Paul:

A lot of startups do that, and you're like, we got another POC, it's like, great, you're going to spend six months to earn $10,000 and it goes nowhere, and then you put it on your website and you still don't have a repeatable business model.

Paul:

I hate POCs to be honest, but if that's all you can get, if that's all I could get after trying my darndest to get real living customers, I'd probably take it, but don't take too many of them.

Nalin:

I was going to say exactly what you're saying, POCs are good in that your customers not, may or may not give you money for it, but they are going to give you resources.

Nalin:

They're going to open up APIs, they're going to give you access to data and so on.

Nalin:

So they are making some investment, even if it may not always be cash, but you absolutely should not get in the habit of doing them over and over, because that is a black hole that is very hard to come out of.

Nalin:

And believe me, I've been there!

Paul:

The one POC we ever did in 9 years of Moneytree, and I guess 5 or 6 years of Moneytree LINK our platform.

Paul:

Yeah.

Paul:

It was just, it was a time suck.

Paul:

It was a good lesson in why not to do POCs.

Jason:

But at that, evolution, that's not the point.

Jason:

What if it was the, your very first foray?

Paul:

If you can't get a really good date, get the, you know, get, get a slightly less good date, uh, is better than being by yourself I suppose.

Paul:

But yeah, you want to try and level up so that you have a repeatable business model.

Paul:

We haven't really talked about b2B sales specific to Japan, and this is a Japan focus room.

Paul:

Who has some thoughts on how we can help non-sale founders do B2B sales, specifically in Japan.

Paul:

What's different about Japan and everywhere else?

Beau Becker:

Yeah, that's exactly, the direction that I was about to take my comments.

Beau Becker:

But just to quickly introduce myself, my name is Bo Becker.

Beau Becker:

I'm the founder of Reiwa Pharmaceuticals, a small startup here in Tokyo.

Beau Becker:

We focus on helping Japanese people affected by Asian.

Beau Becker:

But actually tonight I'm hoping to pull on my experience before my startup and I, I spent about five years working for very traditional Japanese machinery companies doing specifically B2B sales for them.

Beau Becker:

So I do think I'm, I have a bit of a unique perspective to, to bring into this, and what I wanted to bring to the discussion was a bit of a talk of the specific differences between sales culture in Japan and I guess the western business Culture in general.

Beau Becker:

And I, I thought I would share one quick story just to highlight, these differences from my experience.

Beau Becker:

While I was working for this machinery company, we would, often meet with foreign multi-use national companies at their factories abroad, but also with our Japanese customers at their factories abroad.

Beau Becker:

And I, I traveled to America with my boss one time, and on the first day of the trip we were meeting with a Japanese company at their factory.

Beau Becker:

Second day of the trip, a similar large American company.

Beau Becker:

And so, you know, we had gifts, you know, since Japanese business is so relationship based, we had gifts prepared.

Beau Becker:

We had the company calendar that we were ready to give to them.

Beau Becker:

You know what, whatever it was.

Beau Becker:

And first day we met with the Japanese company and as soon as we arrived at the factory, you know, the bosses are waiting at the door.

Beau Becker:

We go in, have, you know, sit down for a nice tea and don't even talk about business.

Beau Becker:

Just talk about life in America.

Beau Becker:

Talk about, how their families are doing what, whatever it was for about two hours and, ask 'em about their factory, their business, but never really talked about a sale.

Beau Becker:

Three hours later after work, we all got back together at the local Japanese restaurant and you know, we're drinking, talking.

Beau Becker:

And it wasn't until two hours into the meeting that we even started talking about serious business, two hours into a dinner.

Beau Becker:

And so it would just shows how relationship based it was.

Beau Becker:

Whereas the next day we, we got up, drove to the similar American factory, got there.

Beau Becker:

Nobody was waiting for us.

Beau Becker:

We had to call a person a reception.

Beau Becker:

They didn't offer us any drinks as we got in, shuffled us into a small meeting room, you know, listened to what we had to say for an hour, and then we were, were hurried out the door.

Beau Becker:

Don't get the idea this was a company that the first time we were meeting them, both were, were longtime customers.

Beau Becker:

But I think it just shows how important relationship building and, you know, showing your customer that you really do care about them is, is in, uh, in Japanese sales culture.

Beau Becker:

So I just wanted to, to share that my, my perspective on, um, on how important it is to take that extra step and, um, you know, try to impress your customer, you know, whoever it is with, by taking the extra mile and showing them that, that you do care about their time in, in some way or another.

Paul:

That was great.

Paul:

I think that was a very vivid illustration of, of Japanese B2B sales.

Jason:

I know Beau is extremely fluent in Japanese and his previous career and his startup is, has basically been done in near native Japanese and Paul, not so different.

Jason:

For our listeners who don't speak fluent Japanese and are facing early or even late stage, desire to build their B2B sales in their company, what would you say, starting with Beau, what would you say?

Beau Becker:

How, how to do sales in Japan without Japanese?

Beau Becker:

May, maybe you should go first, Paul.

Paul:

First to set the context, you wouldn't try to do sales in America without English unless you're selling to like Spanish speakers.

Paul:

But let's say it's not English or Spanish.

Paul:

You'd need someone who could communicate, right?

Paul:

That's, that's a first step.

Paul:

You need to have someone on your team who, especially if you're a foreign founder, who can hold the hand of the Japanese client and until you're, recognized as being a legit local presence, and, Moneytree, for example, is a Japanese company, and I can go into most meetings and I don't have to work too hard to validate myself, as like just being a local or equivalent to a local company.

Paul:

But at the same time, I also know how to signal that as well, like with very small things or asking certain questions, or making certain comments or reading a little bit about the other person and then giving them a platitude about, you know, their recent interview and so on and so forth.

Paul:

So I also know how to handle that.

Paul:

We had a, we still have a wonderful person who took us under his wing and taught us to work with Japanese banks, and he was our senior advisor.

Paul:

He's still in our company today, but now as an auditor.

Paul:

So look for the advisor person, look for a sales manager, and just remember, you're going to have to upgrade your sales staff as your company gets better.

Paul:

You should be fluent in understanding the mind of the customer.

Paul:

If you're the CEO especially, you need to have perhaps the best model of what the customer is thinking.

Paul:

And of course, that's just not just one customer.

Paul:

So it's, it is a little bit academic to say the model of it, but it's a model.

Paul:

The map is not the terrain.

So those two things:

hire a sales manager, find a senior advisor type.

So those two things:

Find someone from the industry who will hold your hand and take you to those meetings and will vouch for you until you have enough pull to say "we're a local presence".

Beau Becker:

Yeah.

Beau Becker:

I will say I, I don't have too much to add on top of that, I would say.

Beau Becker:

I, one another point I wanted to add to the discussion is the importance of phone communications in Japan.

Beau Becker:

And how I've made so many sales calls, over the phone and, I've found it to be much more effective than email, even in modern Japan, because most of the decision makers in Japanese companies, I will almost say all of the, 99% of decision makers are going to be, older gentlemen, who really don't have much English fluency.

Beau Becker:

And so I've had mo a lot of my personal success by phoning directly and trying to get on the phone with that person.

Beau Becker:

So it, I would've to say similar to Paul, that if you're not able to keep up with the business Japanese, it, it would be better to find a competent person to, to fill in that role for you.

Beau Becker:

Japan is just a country where the language barrier, can be quite high.

Paul:

The good news is there are way more people willing to talk to foreign founded, companies about products and services.

Paul:

There are way more companies willing to consider startups than say, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

Paul:

Definitely.

Paul:

So the trend is going in a good direction for people, like I'd say most of the people in this room who are starting startups or are considering it.

Paul:

I guess that's the glass is half full argument.

Paul:

And the glass is half empty argument is that it's harder than ever before to hire people because if you think about it, the last 18 months, a lot of, a lot of things have been growing.

Paul:

But at the same time, you are not necessarily getting all the people that you would've from overseas coming in.

Paul:

And this includes people who are Japanese returning, although some of them have increased.

Paul:

Perhaps this doesn't apply so much to sales.

Paul:

It does definitely to engineering and design and product management, but not so much to sales.

Paul:

However, if you're in the software business, I would say one of the good things is that there's a whole generation of people coming out of companies like Salesforce, and a lot of the other big American companies, the cloud companies as well, AWS, Microsoft, Google, that now are probably looking for something else to do and they've learned a lot about how those businesses work and that's a huge benefit.

Paul:

I know that at Moneytree we started enterprise sales five years ago and the way we wanted to sell what we wanted to sell there just was not, there was no one in the market who had those skills that was willing to work with us 5 years ago.

Paul:

So we constantly had to find people and then, repurpose them, meaning that we'd teach them new things and try and figure this thing out and we still hadn't figured out how to sell our product that well, cause we weren't so experienced back then.

Paul:

It's a lot easier now.

Paul:

So maybe my glass half empty is actually pretty half is pretty much half full as well.

Beau Becker:

And I'd actually like to jump in with one more point, which is, Jason, you were just, speaking so, kindly about my Japanese ability and how I'm very fluent.

Beau Becker:

And I actually, I'm not sure that's entirely true.

Beau Becker:

I certainly speak good business Japanese, but I'm in no way at a native level, or completely fluent.

Beau Becker:

And at one point I do really like about doing business in Japan is that even though when I call up a company and they hear my introduction, my spiel, every single person knows that I'm not a native Japanese speaker.

Beau Becker:

They can tell it right away, and I'm sure that I make grammatical mistakes.

Beau Becker:

And say one or two things wrong, but I've found that almost every person I've talked to has patiently listened to my grammatical errors.

Beau Becker:

Never called me out for it.

Beau Becker:

Always been extremely kind, and listen to whatever I've had to say and take me seriously as a business person just because I picked up the phone and went for it.

Beau Becker:

For anybody that is, maybe at a conversational level with their Japanese and feels a bit nervous about picking up the phone, obviously the first few times are going to be a struggle.

Beau Becker:

And, I often need to write out a couple lines before picking up the phone and, get a few vocabulary words ready for each call.

Beau Becker:

Don't be afraid to pick it up and give it a try because I've found that almost all Japanese business people and secretaries are so kind and, very ready to listen to whatever level of Japanese you're bringing to the table.

Paul:

I just wanna add to that it doesn't apply if you're a recruiter!

Paul:

I have worked as a recruiter.

Jason:

We are actually getting close to normal finishing time.

Jason:

We've been talking today about B2B sales for non-sale founders.

Jason:

We've covered a lot of information tonight with incredible speakers, but, have we, we covered everything that you wanted to cover.

Jason:

from your initial presentation Paul.

Paul:

Well, It really was a mind dump of, how I see sales and I guess a lot of the gaps that I've been able to fill in these last few years from direct experience, and of course working with great people, and making lots of mistakes.

Paul:

I don't think we've even scratched the surface to be honest.

Paul:

Luke just came up onto the stage.

Paul:

Maybe Luke's got something he'd like to share.

Luke McDonald:

Thank, thanks very much, Paul.

Luke McDonald:

Thanks everyone.

Luke McDonald:

I'm not a founder.

Luke McDonald:

Not yet anyway.

Luke McDonald:

But, I've really enjoyed the conversation, because I've been in B2B sales for startups and, for quite some time.

Luke McDonald:

on the other end of the scale where I have founders, they're passionate, they love to talk about their product and all their service and, sometimes it's best not to take them along to a meeting, because they just are so passionate and it sometimes it can get in the way of sales.

Luke McDonald:

And on the other side, sometimes it's such an a, a joy to take them along to sales because they just have such a really in-depth, knowledge of their product and their service.

Luke McDonald:

They've got a great story to tell.

Luke McDonald:

And this sort of goes back to what Bill was saying as well, that, yeah getting on, on, on the phone, as a, as a founder can be pretty difficult if you don't have, that Japanese, ability to get through the gatekeeper and that.

Luke McDonald:

But if you just, persistent, I think it's calling, four or five times, to get to the right particular person and even if you're using English, and then vice versa if you're using Japanese, it's just going to take that time and investment for founders I, I think to get to know what actually is sales?

Luke McDonald:

What does it take to, to sell in Japan?

Luke McDonald:

And if they've, you've got a small team.

Luke McDonald:

If you have one or two people getting sales, going out with the sales salespeople, find out, what are their challenges?

Luke McDonald:

Why is it difficult to sell?

Luke McDonald:

Why are they reaching their targets?

Luke McDonald:

Why are they not reaching their targets?

Luke McDonald:

Because sometimes that glass ceiling can slowly begin to develop whether, okay, you guys do sales and undoing product.

Luke McDonald:

Like you mentioned before, Paul, you can be so focused on the product that, that there is a sales process and there's a, there's a sales team and, while they've got that, periscope up, hopefully more than often.

Luke McDonald:

I think it's great for founders to take an interest in that sales, even if they don't feel like a salesman.

Luke McDonald:

When you get into it, sales is really not, it's not like you're selling a used car.

Luke McDonald:

It's really involved.

Luke McDonald:

It can be marketing, it's customer service.

Luke McDonald:

I think in Japan, they really love that attention, that, that personal level attention.

Luke McDonald:

You can spend two hours at a party or I've called up a client, four or five times a week to try and get in and in on hold of them or, you're writing emails, you're sending out newsletters, like it, it can get really involved.

Luke McDonald:

I think for founders at startups, just showing the sales team that you take some interest, that can help in the long term, rather than putting up a wall and saying, sales or sales product is product and trading it as such.

Paul:

Thanks, Luke.

Paul:

There's some really good, insights into the coal face of sales, the gemba in Japanese.

Luke McDonald:

Of course it's sales, so it's not easy.

Luke McDonald:

And picking up that phone.

Luke McDonald:

You get to that gatekeeper.

Luke McDonald:

She doesn't wanna let you through, and 'no Suzuki-san's not here'.

Luke McDonald:

You've gotta have that gambaru type attitude, that persistent attitude.

Luke McDonald:

If founders can see that, then they, oh, okay, this is what really sales is.

Luke McDonald:

Or we need this particular product pamphlet, or we need, we need to go to this trade show, what benefits are we going to get out of this trade show from a company and from a sales perspective?

Luke McDonald:

Yeah, having some knowledge about what is actually required, whether it be from JETRO or different startup events that focus on sales and marketing, even events like this, I think it's really good to look at sales from all different aspects.

Paul:

Well said.

Paul:

I think you should have come up onto the stage a bit earlier.

Paul:

I'd like to leave everyone with this one thought.

Paul:

I'm not sure if everyone knows the story of the Ohmi-Shonin.

Paul:

So Ohmi is a place in Japan, and the Shonin is a business person, or a seller, a merchant, someone of the merchant class.

Paul:

And I imagine Ohmi is a place where everyone apparently is engaged in entrepreneurship, I'm imagining a town that looks like the set from Kung Fu Hussle, except instead of everyone secretly knowing kung fu, everyone has a business or two or three or four.

n, that there are three types:

'un', 'don' and 'kon' . And I think this really is perhaps one of the greatest lessons non-sale people need to learn before they get into sales.

n, that there are three types:

'Un' means luck, so there are the lucky ones.

n, that there are three types:

I'll skip to the third one which is 'Kon'.

n, that there are three types:

Kon is 'konjo', which is guts.

n, that there are three types:

And the middle one is ' Don' which I think of is 'donkan' which is just, you've gotta be dense.

n, that there are three types:

You've gotta be non-reactive.

n, that there are three types:

And so the three most revered attributes of the most famous, I guess town or village where people are known for entrepreneurship are luck, guts, and let's call it resilience.

n, that there are three types:

And I think that's one of the biggest in insights I had when I first started doing sales only, is that don't be smart.

n, that there are three types:

Just do more of what you're doing.

n, that there are three types:

As long as you're doing the right thing, you need to do more of it.

n, that there are three types:

And that's one of the key mistakes of people who are very clever, who are solve problems every day, is they think by switching and flipping and changing, they're going to get better results.

n, that there are three types:

Often as anyone will tell you when sales activity will get better results.

Nalin:

I love that one, Paul.

Nalin:

I didn't know that, but I love that and thanks for sharing it.

Nalin:

I learn something every time I'm on the, on this Monday evening one, but I'll share mine, which is 'giri', 'konjo' and 'yasei gaman'.

Nalin:

I don't know if anybody's heard that one before, but it's like the echo of what Paul just shared and it's very important in getting business done in Japan.

Nalin:

Hope to drill down further in this, in, in another session.

Nalin:

But I really enjoyed today, so thank you for having me here.

Paul:

Thanks Nalin, and thanks Ilya, Jason, and all of tonight's guests.

Francisco Soares:

Paul, do you mind in the end just repeating the five points you mentioned before?

Francisco Soares:

I

Jason:

That was my point just before is again, I was trying to say if we are not going to talk about anything else, can you please summarize?

Paul:

Alright, the five parts of the framework are prospecting, creating the deal, helping the client buy, supporting the client's onboarding, and representing the voice of the customer.

Paul:

Thanks everyone!

Shibainu:

Aaand that's all for now.

Shibainu:

Thank you for listening to Founded In Japan.

Shibainu:

This episode was recorded live on Clubhouse on September 9, 2021.

Shibainu:

Founded In Japan is part of the Business In Japan Clubhouse and Linked In group.

Shibainu:

Follow us on Clubhouse or Linked In to join our live audio events, or subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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