What does it like to start a company in Japan with Thomas Robjens




okay perfect so welcome back this is life of education tv thank you very much for joining today thomas okay so once again today i wanted to keep our conversation as authentic as possible so i didn't really prepare any questions for you but then i have some things that i wanted to talk about with you uh one of which is sales because i think so we worked together before and i know how incredible this man is when it comes to sales and he can sell anything to you so let's ask him something uh some questions about like you know what philosophy of sales or whatever okay okay so and also i i wanted to also ask you about like how what is it like what is what has it been like to start a company in japan right like you started a company as a foreigner so i wanted to ask you about that so the first thing we're going to talk about is sales right um so last time you said sales is all about make a belief you know but is there um i guess is there anything else you would point out to anything like particularity about being good at sales yeah well there's a there's a a few things you gotta know about sales before you start and and um um you know like the the step the first step of sales is always communicating your product or service so um you got to learn how to communicate your product or service you know you gotta you know practice your pitch you gotta um think if what i'm saying is enough for a customer to buy you know okay so i'm saying all the i'm saying abcde is abcde enough for a customer to buy or not you know like do they get it like is it enough information so and then you can do it in steps too like some some some companies for example our company it's like it always starts on the phone then meaning then pitch then close deal you know which is like a four-step thing but um you know a lot of people that does internet sales for example they do like um you know like um a commercial click through and then they do a landing page then you know email sign up and then email sign up to live conversion or something like that so there's a couple of the parts but there's a couple of you know steps too and then you got to see like so it's a it's like a sales funnel and it it's very much like the ida sales funnel it's always like the ida sales funnel so it's um awareness interest you know uh desire decision or whatever and then action right so yeah if you follow that yeah when you're in the meeting though like yeah do you have any particular agenda like is there anything that you are um thinking about as you go into the meeting like yeah yeah absolutely yeah yeah absolutely can you kind of give us the framework or uh give us like what you you know what you think about when you are making sales yeah so uh absolutely so the first thing i want to know is like how much where are they in the sales funnel so before i go to the meeting i want to check like um you know do they understand our product or am i going there to make them understand our product or you know are they interested in our product or am i going there to create interest in our product you know so um um so it's either when i get to a meeting it's either you know normally it's in the interest part of the sales funnel um and if you google sales funnel or whatever it is you will see it's like awareness interest uh desire and action so you know when i get to uh if it's interest what i have to do then is like okay well that means that they're already looking they're already looking for a similar service or product or something like that and what i gotta do then is i gotta i've gotta convince them that my product my service is ten times better than everybody else's you know um if they're not looking yet if they're just trying to understand what the product is and if they have any need for it then that's awareness so that's a step before so then i got to go and i gotta like explain that you know what the benefit of having a product like this is so i wanna know first you know where they are and if they already at the point where um they're ready to make a decision they're just like really you know they're already ready to make a decision then um what i got to do then is uh then already they know the product they know what they want they you know uh all they need is kind of more or less um an estimation for how much it's gonna cost they need to understand what the cost is and also what the rollout is gonna be of the service and that's it so i see so i actually this actually brought me up another question so um i was listening to someone who said you know when ah what was it so basically here's what this person said when you make sales people would never buy from you if if they know that they don't care about you right the way to show the caring um is like it's built by small things it's an accumulation of small thing one of which is uh remembering name and then that led to this discussion about it's predicated on


and the first m is uh motivation so if you if i tell you that you need to remember someone's name and i give you like 1 000 or whatever you would have like natural motivation wanting to do so right yeah so that's just like a natural authentic motivation for you to want to get to know the other person want to help other person like that's that's first down and then the oh is observe observation so what it what it is is um you being present you're being present with the customer so when you are with the customer and then you know one of the examples will be you're at the networking event and then you're just like constantly looking over the shoulder of other people but then that doesn't send you the signal that you are present with the person and that also you know possibly leads to clue that you don't care about the person you're with right now right and then the last m uh what was it um sorry i can't remember i'm gonna get back to you if i remember so my question is this oh right my question relates to this oh observe observing when you say you know you're with the customer and then you are always kind of planning on this strategy of like how should i navigate this conversation to the next point like what's the balance do you say because i feel like that's something that i had had to deal with in the past where you know we went to a sales meeting together sometimes before and you were always i felt like you were always present i was always thinking of like then like what about this what about this or like you know making suggestion or like asking more questions or whatever and sometimes it was even about me i felt like it wasn't i wasn't making it enough about them but then i remember you were always there trying to make customer be like on the center of the attention so let me know like what in terms of the balance right like and i think yeah the way you did it was exactly right like you made the customer to feel important you made the customer to be heard in the sales meeting and like so what's the balance there like because you still obviously have to think about the next move as well like when you are um about to go to the next topic or you know asking questions so you know all of this is very easier if you have like a trained in agenda before you go to the sales meeting so yeah facilitating so i never go into a sales meeting without knowing exactly what's going to happen in the sales meeting and exactly what the outcome is going to be i never go to it i i i just don't so i decide everything in beforehand so and also uh not only decide i confirm things in beforehand so i can call up the customer and i'm gonna say like what are you gonna answer to this question he's gonna say that got it you know so and that those things really help like so when you get into the sales meeting you're just going from you know you have an agenda the customer understands the agenda as well you know um and also um like so for example let's say that you have the opening of the meeting and then after that you have the presentation and then you have a hearing where you're kind of like matching matching the customers problems to your solution so you're just basically taking the customer's problems and then matching it to the your solution that you have and that is a form of qa right so uh i opened i said who i am i you know i talked about what we talked about last time or whatever it was i talked about what we talked on the phone or whatever it was and then after that i did my presentation and i presented something that the customer had requested to hear you know from the beginning and then i'm talking about what the customer has requested to hear and then after that i'm listening to the customers questions because you know at that point i'm not in the sales game yet the sales game come comes after this in the end the customer the the sales game uh like where i'm selling is where i'm answering the customers requests and a lot of people they jump the gun and then they start shooting immediately and they go like the fun you know i just want to sell it


that's funny but often the customer feels like okay well you're asking me to buy your stuff but i still have a lot of concerns and you're pushing a product on to me where i i don't feel safe yet you know so before that what i want to do is i want to have a hearing i want to listen to the customer i want to understand what the customer is saying and then of course i'm matching that up with what i have by answering what he's saying so for example let's say that you know um i don't know i'm selling fish tanks or whatever it is right and all of a sudden the customer he's going to buy like a 6 000 fish tank or something like that he wants to know if all the fishes that he likes is going to be in the fish tank or whatever it is that his concern is and also like are some of them going to survive are they all not going to survive like how much does it cost to maintain it like who's gonna clean this six thousand dollar fish tank you know like he's gonna have a lot of questions right so maybe i made my presentation saying that this is an amazing fish tank oh my god like it's got everything you want in it etc uh and you can customize it amazingly and blah blah blah and i made my presentation and then the customer goes okay well you know i have a b c d e question and then at that point i'm just listening i'm taking in the information and i'm saying okay well you know um when it comes to your question a what made you think of that concern what made you cons like what made you concerned about it and then there's like well i was concerned about it because of this reason i was concerned about it because of that reason and then you say okay well if you're concerned about it and this is where i show that i care about him this is where i show that i really like i'm observant you know like i want to know what what he was thinking about and then i also want to know and i want to connect it to the things that he said before you know i want to as i wanted to say like yeah you were saying this and you were saying that so i'm showing the guy that i'm really listening to him right so so actually i'm taking a note once again to like ask you following up questions so i'm getting like full attention to me so don't you know um so you said something that i wanted to make a question about so you said um you said that you know it's it's all about like creating the worries right like during the process you're returning your products and everything like you're you're just creating customers concerns and then i want to ask like what are they essentially buying do you believe like the customers what are they buying like obviously they're buying for the products or service but then like the same service doesn't necessarily sell like the same amounts right like obviously there's a lot of a lot more about uh variants yeah the variables that um plays role so what what do you think customers essentially buy and then the second one i'm just gonna um throw it out there right now so you said you answer questions but then like don't i think a lot of people get like really worked up and thinking that you know i don't have all the answers so what how can i how can i be you know helpful for this person like this is probably one of the common uh behavior a lot of us tend to do right like we don't i think the the reason a lot of us become like very worked up and very nervous in front you know uh right before the sales meeting is probably because um part of it comes from the fear of


not basically being the solution right like not um not having enough confidence to uh be like look i'm here for you i'm the solution for you right like they always have a fear of like what if this kind of questions come up comes up that i don't know the answer for then like i feel like you are saying that you always find a way to connect to your solutions as answer to the customer's concerns like how do you deal with the confidence conflict if you were to ever raise any sort of concern about what if i'm not going to be able to answer well i i i have to say um


because you know the confidence really comes in the pre-work you know if you did your work before the meeting and it becomes automatic after a while you know you don't have to you know like spend a lot of time uh doing that but um after a while in the beginning sure it will take some time it will take some time to learn but it's basically the biggest thing is absolutely agenda and practicing in finding matches you know you'll you'll practice with a friend or something like that and and your friend will raise concerns and then you're just trying to hit a match to the concerns you know where you're saying like where your friend says uh i want to buy uh you know a car that has like a really good airbag system because you know there was uh there was uh a problem uh you know there was an accident my family you know 10 years ago or something like that and that devastated my whole family so i don't want that again you know like just does it have airbags you know or something like that and at that point you know you know how to answer it because you've heard that question many times and you know you know how to to to respond to it and the more automatic you are in these responses the better you are at these responses the more you can work on the emotions that comes into it the more you can joke around the more you can have fun the better you know your script the more you can work on the next game because it's not about answering questions it's about making believe like i said last time it's about making the customer believing in you but you still have to answer the questions for them to even for you to even be believable from from the beginning right so you want to answer the questions you want to hear their concerns you have a strategy at place from the start that goes from a to b from b to c you know from c to d that takes the the customer through the whole sales process in the meeting and then when you know your script you know what you're talking about you start joking around and when you start joking around and you're having fun the customer is having fun but the customer has you never go outside uh of the belief you know you never because you're answering all the questions so the customer's having fun and he's believing you at the same time and then all of a sudden that creates you can create a lot of trust in that meeting and that's where you seal the deal you know that's where you get him or her of course interesting so essentially um i guess that also answered part of my first question which was what do you think customers are buying essentially that is to think that basically like once you are used to the script yeah you can add more emotion to it you can build absolutely easier like that's that's what you think customers are buying at the end of the day absolutely i see they're buying their personality you know like this is the thing like i want to have a certain amount of people in my life that i work with i want to have uh i want to have my kebab store guy that i buy kebab from you know i want i want to be able to talk to him i want to be able to hang out with him i want to be able to say you know listen to my you know middle eastern news i want to get that you know i want to go to my uh um you know i want to go to my uh real estate person that i want to have a really good connection with i want my real estate person to understand what i'm looking for all the time you know and the same thing with many things you know i want to have these a couple of super people in my life that then creates like the super team thomas you know that that then you know supercharges my life right so i want people to know about me and i i i want to know about them too and i want to know how to communicate to them and get my word through so they can give me better services and more pinpointed services and it's the same with your customers they want the same thing you know the more they the more they have invested in you the more they're gonna feel like okay well i've invested in this person but they also have to feel like their investment's good you know they invested time into you and you understood what they were talking about that's also very important


do you think sales is easier to come from new businesses or like a detainer business well depending on business model too but then like do you think is it easier to get attention more than new sales


it's you know like when it comes to retainer business it really comes down to the production the quality or service or something like that like service is really retained in you know uh


in in in having like satisfaction in the service you know roll out so when you're rolling out the services when you're really receiving the services if that if that service is good um then so so i think retention has a little bit like to do with quality and new sales if you're if you're selling one offs or you know like um let's say you're selling um


uh a car or something like that you know where you're a car dealer then you would have the customer come back a couple of you know after a few years right you know and then and then to retain that customer it also comes down to the service by delivering and saying hey how's your card you have any problems with it you know uh if you do have a problem you know we can we can fix it like this or we can do that or we can do this you know to to to solve that you know to to show that the customer's not uh on his own but you know you're keeping him around so um i would say retention really comes down to uh having a service and that also comes from the sales side uh i would say where a salesperson says hey you know what um i care about you and um if this is the production or the service robot guys or whatever it is uh let me try to understand your concerns and then let me try to fix that with the service providers so they can get what you are really asking for that your needs are like fulfilled so so then i have a question for you so i think this is probably one of the common problems that a lot of business owners have so service quality i agree but then like that includes customer complaints that includes uh customer services right yeah like where do you find that line where you say you know what like you know we just not much you know like this customer is just paying the ass to work with right but then you as a business owner you also obviously have to care about the company and then providing for the companies yeah what's the line that you you would say um you go by you know yeah so basically you have to set up the rule for work before you sell so now so before you sell a product you got to set up a room work where you say like okay how do i protect my customers from inconveniences unfairnesses from me you know like how do i protect my customers to not feel bad or something from the service that i'm providing them and it's really simple you know you have to think about from your customers shoes and say like okay if i'm a customer of myself what are the things that can happen that i would be concerned about and then you start providing a solution for that and if that solution uh might cost like an insurance policy or something like that you know like apple they're genius right they even have apple care and that's that's perfect so that's basically what it is that is customer service customer complaint you know that's apple care so they thought about it from from a customer perspective so they went to the customer's shoes and they said okay well paying five six dollars a month uh if that makes you feel good and safe and you know like you don't have a problem well i'd be willing to pay that and what is that like what kind of problems did that take care of well uh it takes care of if uh um your screen breaks or what whatever it is you know like those that are the main concerns and they thought about that and they created a rule work for it and when you're a customer after a while you've learned what to expect from apple's apple care you know you kind of know that okay well if i if i mess up like this or if i mess up like that they'll hey they'll help me because they have this apple care thing so it's really about setting down the rule work before you start where you say like okay how do i protect my customers against myself and against uh you know how do i make them feel good about buying for me in any scenario right so this is very interesting to me because i think a lot of consumers wouldn't have a chance to look at things in this way you know what i mean the more like the bigger your business is the um the more scaled your business is um it's you know like consumers complain a lot about you know like this company doesn't care about me like you know like this company's [ __ ] this company didn't pay for me right like whatever they raised the problem but then i think what you brought up as a point is very very interesting uh perspective from consumer perspective because yeah like as a business owner you kind of have to also um have the idea of like how to protect yourself and then also your company uh to from the customer so i thought it was a very fresh perspective for consumers who are maybe watching this not but not protect yourself from your customers to protect your customers from you that's what you got to think about you know that's the way to think


you know if they if they somehow if there's a possibility that they can experience bad service they have to have a way out they have to have a solution if they don't have a solution what happens is a bad review a furious customer some bad words on the phone you know somebody who's really like you know maybe if you're a traveler you know it it a travel company etc you know maybe they it messed up their vacation you know these are big moments of their lives you know they have to be protected they got to be protected and that's being protected from you so you got to set up the rule work for them to be have a successful product experience or service experience from you makes sense i see good good job okay so uh in the beginning i said i have another question right that i wanted to get into so another question is um what was it like to start a company as a foreigner in japan right and then like i said you're an entrepreneur and you started multiple companies in japan um and i'm sure that you probably can like starting company itself is already hard and on top of that japan as a country is not the optimal place for entrepreneurs right necessarily like okay so i was looking at this ranking um that the government created okay about where this came from i think it's from us but they were ranking like the countries that is easy to start open uh start a business right okay i should go there in japan like usa i think was something like um like listen number five right okay okay it's something like this and then japan was like 57. oh wow japan is like supposed to be this like one of the top you know economic like you know everything should be very advanced and we have such a great technology we have such a great uh you know infrastructure for many things technology especially innovation technologies like these are by far one of the strengths of japan strengths of the country this is why i find it so sad that the government doesn't like have the system to support entrepreneurs more right and they're working for it they're making it a lot easier for now um compared to like years ago but if you look at the numbers of companies being created like the new ones uh it's very relative it's small relativity is still very small here you know in japan so that's the second of struggle i think for any entrepreneurs to start a business in japan as a country and then the third um of struggles that i see for you particularly you're a foreigner right and then you came from completely different culture well like dynamic but you came from literally the other side of the world and people should actually different things work different here like you know everything should be so different and i even struggle just living in uh another country just studying like at that point like what um what was it like really i'm very curious to know like what was the so let's let's begin with one question what was tom tell us the hardest thing you have to come overcome starting a business in a foreign country in japan actually i have to say it was surprisingly easy for us for us it was surprisingly easy and uh okay i have to i i'll tell you why so immediately we focused in a hole in the market and we focused on our core strengths and our core strength was being foreigners that was it right so our whole um concept was like international communication right which is okay well who can do international communication in japan well the people who are going to be very good at international communication in japan is going to be you know i guess uh the of the bilinguals it's going to be the foreign part of the bilinguals in japan you know um when it comes to delivering a message from japan outside of japan right but then when it comes to delivering a message from um outside of japan to japan i guess it's gonna be the the japanese bilinguals you know so for us it was kind of like okay well let's start with the point where we're delivering messages from japan to the outside world you know this is going to be our product then this is going to be our service then uh from there you know obviously we're going to be the core the core product and and it's very important that when you start any company in the world you make yourself the product first you know you you you make yourself the service you make yourself your product etc whatever it is even if somebody else is delivering it even if somebody else is rolling it out or something like this because it creates a lot of credibility and you need you know you need to uh pass a lot of credibility bars and the the thing is we needed now we i come down to credibility uh we needed to have insane amount of credibility in japan you need to have insane to sell big i don't like selling small um selling small is maybe more fun but i also think that selling small you end up doing a lot of busy work so i don't like selling small i like selling big and so i want to have a product that is over five thousand dollars for sure uh i wanna have a product that hopefully lands around thirty thousand forty thousand fifty thousand dollars you know and the reason for that is that i want my customer you know to buy a big product you know and there there's a lot less work in it you know i don't wanna i don't wanna kill myself over you know a few customers i'd rather you know uh be able to have enough budget to really deliver good service to them uh so uh that's what we did so we created a couple of products that was i think a product first product was uh interviewing ceos in japan and putting them on cnn bloomberg and the economist so what we did was we would call up um uh the pr department of every company in all of japan and we'd say hey do you you know what uh we're gonna feature a president for free on bloomberg cnn uh the economist let's set up an interview let's get him on board he's gonna be on cnn bloomberg the economist whatever and then we'd call we'd have the the interview and then after the interview we'd sell a media package saying that okay well if you want to have an extensive media package um why don't you just pay 35 000 with right now you're going to be on this page you're going to have that many views if you want to have 15 times more views if you want to have like 100 times more views paid this amount of money and then they would be like okay well that sounds great you know that way i get the video i get the media package and also i get to be on cnn bloomberg whatever i'm already invested i'm already i already had this um interview meeting etc right and if they didn't want that they would still be on bloomberg cnn or uh the economist but maybe they you know uh maybe they would have like an average amount of views instead of a sponsored content kind of you know package where you have like a lot of uh media views right so that's basically what we did and uh by doing that we're delivering a message from japan outside of japan right which was a perfect product for us and then you know we became our product so um that was good it was very easy you know when you make yourself the solution to a problem so that's key number one number two i would say is that uh you can't be a hero forever you got to become the king sometime you know and you got to let other people be heroes you know when you start any company any business that you have so uh maybe you're the hero in the beginning but you know you got to train other heroes you know you got to get heroes around you where you say like yo you're going to be the hero i'm going to train you and um you're going to be the achilles of my team so uh i'm going to give you some new set of skills i'm going to train you up and then i'm going to make money work for me rather than me making working for money right so you want to have employees you want to have uh people and i have to say that was super easy in japan it's very very easy to hire people in japan it's so much more easier than sweden i'm from sweden and sweden is hell to hire people they have a billion barriers to hire someone but here it's very simple it's very easy you can easily get part-timers over you can easily get full-timers over and you don't have to pay uh an amount of money to try people you can try people very in uh easily on on a part-time salary before you hire them full-time so yeah i have to say it's very easy but then there's a lot of difficult things and those come in culture shocks so uh where i'm from you know if you look at europe you know decisions are not made like america like this but they are made a lot faster than japan you know the uh the the the sales circle is a lot faster than japan so what you want to do is uh in japan is one thing you want to do is you want to set your expectations straight and then you want to get paid for you want to adjust your estimate to that sales circle so if you know that it's going to take you about 50 hours to get paid from a customer in japan then you got to put those 50 hours down in your estimate you know so you gotta you gotta match up to it otherwise you just kill your own heart feeling you know and that's how i think it was for me or us so in in sweden like how how long on average does it take for one sales to close japan all right all right so it's a lot faster so you can you can get it done within a month you can get it done within you know three weeks it's basically just four or five steps you know but in japan you would say like you know it takes probably like seven three to six months yeah wow six months egg it's three to six months and selling big


it all comes down to how clear you are in your communication the more clear you are in your communication the faster it is i see so you showed me it was actually there to be pretty easy right like what are the other uh culture shock that you you saw that was hard like one of which was sales cycle was a lot different right like is there any other culture shock that you saw uh was becoming a struggle for you to cross sales or to just set up company or to just you know operation just to operate the company yeah it's very difficult here to correct your sales strategy after you have initiated a sales strategy with a customer it's very difficult to correct it you know so let's say you're in you're one month into your sales process with a customer it's very hard to then say wow uh this sales process is not working oh okay we gotta we gotta change our game you know uh we started by communicating abc you know uh but that's not working so uh maybe we have to start the opposite way and start communicating c and b and a instead that's not gonna work you know you gotta you have to uh figure out your communication process to the customer and um it has to be affected from the start you can't you can't change your process with a customer you know they get confused and when they get confused they zoom out they really really zoom out you know they're kind of like oh yeah that's we're going with someone else you know so i would just say that go for it sorry would you say that um like i heard this saying before like it's i think it might come from this like you know very like character of japanese people right like samurai sort of spray whatever but let's just say that like we uh japanese people customers are a lot more loyal so once they commit like they just go with it they make sure that you know they will uh keep their words keep their promise right like once you close the sales but then um in america for example it's a lot faster to close the sales but then when you confirm it like sometimes sales disappear because they don't commit to it like they it's easier for them to say yes but then um they're not very careful in terms of you know during the sales process they just commit too fast that they just zoom out once you know the contract was supposed to start or maybe months were too in the contract started they just like zoom out they're like ah okay whatever don't never mind but then in japan they're a lot careful a lot more careful during the sales process to make sure that everything look okay so does this person really know what he's talking about or you know so they really test you but then once they commit they will like you know um make sure that they keep their promises like we'll just say this is accurate description yeah i mean yeah absolutely in


in japan they don't you know they don't um go back on their word would you say like this is also the same in your country would you say


to an extent yeah uh i think in sweden people don't forget their word but they can go back on their word but then they will explain why they do it you know they will give you a reason why so i don't i don't think it's like in america oh [ __ ] i just found someone better sorry yes yeah like that but um in sweden they need to have like a circumstance to do it like there there needs to be something special has happened and then they'll go like but even in japan uh


you know if if they go back on the world will give you something else you know that they will they will give you something else that that doesn't necessarily happen in sweden where they could go back and they could say like i'm sorry but you know this time this and this and this happened so this deal's off uh and then in sweden they'll just say we'll come back next time you know but here in japan they'll go like well we promised you this so um it and and we're going back on this word now so instead we're giving you this how about that for now and then later we'll fix this situation you know so in japan trust is really important you know um so i like that here yeah that sounds really awesome okay well i think this is i it doesn't show me how how long we've been talking about it


yeah i had a conversation with you i had a great conference and thank you very much for sharing your knowledge yeah i appreciate you coming on my my show we're gonna do this all the time too we're gonna probably make it as a series next time we'll talk about something else but like i said like you're one of the most interesting person that i know so i can make a lot of you are the most interesting person i know thank you so much let's close for now uh for today so everybody thank you very much for watching today this was the life of education tv today's guest was thomas i'm gonna also put the link where you can find thomas actually do you have something you want to share right now like as of now where people think yeah like my uh um my instagram link okay so yeah that's it i'm gonna make sure to put the instagram link for him uh below so thank you very much for watching and i'll see you guys next time bye bye thanks bye

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