Statistically speaking, your next prospect is likely to be non-white, non-U.S. born, and/or more fluent in a language other than English. According to the National Association of Realtors, 60% of all home buyers and 40% of first-time home buyers are minori ties. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that Hispanics spent more money on remodeling in 2004 than any other group, including Caucasians.
The Challenge Ethnic and multicultural customers don't necessarily buy or communicate the same way as Caucasian clients, nor do they necessarily want the same features in their homes, says Michael Lee, a consultant who specializes in marketing to multicultural customers. Whether your prospects are from Korea or China, Argentina or Kenya, “If you don't treat them with sensitivity to their culture, they're not going to buy anything from you.”
The First Meeting Most Americans assume that the proper way to introduce themselves is by extending their hand. Unfortunately, Lee says, a handshake “can be extremely offensive to some people from other parts of the world,” for reasons based on their culture, religion, gender, or something else. A traditional Middle-Eastern woman, for instance, may be prohibited from touching anybody other than her husband, even another woman.
“Let them initiate the greeting,” Lee says. Say Hello or Welcome, but let them set the tone from there. If it's a couple and the man reaches out to shake your hand, shake it. “But drop your hand before turning to the female,” he cautions. If she doesn't extend her hand, “just nod at her to show respect and to acknowledge her. Then move along with your presentation.”
Also, depending on the prospect's background, any form of touching can be offensive, Lee says. Unless you know a client well, resist those friendly pats on the back. (Michael Lee, EthnoConnect, www.EthnoConnect.com; 800.417.7325.)