An American sales manager of a large Japanese manufacturing firm

An American sales manager of a large Japanese manufacturing firm in the United States sold a multimillion-dollar order to an American customer. The order was to be filled by headquarters in Tokyo. The customer requested some changes to the product’s standard specifications and a specified deadline for delivery. Because the firm had never made a sale to this American customer before, the sales manager was eager to provide good service and on-time delivery. To ensure a coordinated response, she organized a strategic planning session of the key division managers that would be involved in processing the order. She sent a copy of the meeting agenda to each participant. In attendance were the sales manager, four other Americans, three Japanese managers, the Japanese heads of finance and customer support, and the Japanese liaison to Tokyo headquarters. The three Japanese managers had been in the United States for less than two years. Concerned about the lack of participation from the Japanese but eager to process the customer’s order, the sales manager sent all meeting participants an e-mail with the American managers’ proposal and a request for feedback. She said frankly that she felt some of the managers hadn’t participated much in the meeting, and she was clear about the need for timely action. She said that if she didn’t hear from them within a week, she’d assume consensus and follow the recommended actions of the Americans. A week passed without any input from the Japanese managers. Satisfied that she had consensus, she proceeded. She faxed the specifications and deadline to headquarters in Tokyo and requested that the order be given priority attention. After a week without any response, she sent another fax asking headquarters to confirm that it could fill the order. The reply came the next day: ‘Thank you for the proposal. We are currently considering your request’. Time passed, while the customer asked repeatedly about the order’s status. The only response she could give was that there wasn’t any information yet. Concerned, she sent another fax to Tokyo in which she outlined the specifications and timeline as requested by the customer. She reminded the headquarters liaison of the order’s size and said the deal might fall through if she didn’t receive confirmation immediately. In addition, she asked the liaison to see whether he could determine what was causing the delay. Three days later, he told her that there was some resistance to the proposal and that it would be difficult to meet the deadline.

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