New lead development in S. Korea (Business Culture)

Years ago, I had a few customers in Japan. Whenever I visited Japan, I met with a local partner(sales rep). We always had a meeting between us before a meeting with our mutual customer. A local Japanese partner needed some sort of assurance whether or not I could deliver what they already promised to an end customer. I was a bit surprised by this. How can you work with someone you need assurance every time you meet even though that person never have broken any promises.

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But soon I realized that this is because of the company internal policy (this is also related with Japanese culture). The Japanese staff I worked with was told from his boss that he needed to double check my deliverables before having a meeting with an end customer. And he simply followed his order.

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Yokohama in Japan

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Years passed, I still remember that weird feeling that I have to convince them every time.  Then one day I had a stunning realization that we are not too different from Japan in some way. While we don’t do the same thing to our foreign partner but we must lead the sales meetings in S. Korea as a sales rep.

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There are multiple reasons why a local rep(Korean) has to lead the meetings even with a person from a headquarters(from overseas as a foreigner). First off, we honor face to face meetings as opposed to a conference call or any online media based meetings. So prior to a foreigner partner meeting event, a local rep would probably meet a customer a few times to arrange the meeting. Face to face meeting to arrange a meeting! Can you believe this?

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Gangnam street in Seoul Korea

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Over the years, I saw many occasions where good companies from overseas fail to land a business successfully in Korea. Even if they were able to get a face to face meeting, usually it fails because they can’t easily do a follow-up face to face meetings followed by a causal lunch or dinner which is quite common in sales world in Korea.

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At least drinking Vice President culture (sales meeting lead to a heavy drinking party frequently.) is gone now. It was quite common like 10 years ago, but you don’t have to do this out of necessity anymore (although many sales people still do not because of obligation but because of their likings of the drinking culture. And in some occasion where you need to do businesses with old people, you might have to do this to win a deal.)

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Land a business in Korea successfully.

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If you want to land a business successfully, you must have a good local partner who will be aggressive in getting face to face meetings and follow-up meetings. Otherwise, how much good service or products you have, it doesn’t matter, you can’t stitch it altogether.

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More than a language barrier.

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It’s more than a language barrier. Some think that they couldn’t penetrate Korean market due to a language barrier. I disagree, you could hire good interpreter easily. Also most business people in Korea could understand English communication properly. It’s the meeting culture and follow-up activities that makes the business successful in Korea!

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If you’re curious about how to develop new leads, it’s rather easy. All you need to do is to have a company blog and optimize it for NAVER search engine. (Check out this post if you’re curious about the process. https://thelife.marketing/2018/02/05/generating-new-leads-seo-building-businesses-in-korea/)

But what’s more important is having someone getting a face to face meeting and maintain follow-up meetings regularly. Do you have someone in mind?

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Should you have any questions, feel free to contact me at allan.kims@me.com