Most of you cannot imagine the challenges that I—an African-American in the remodeling industry—had to overcome during the 1970s, '80s and '90s to be successful as a canvasser, salesman, sales manager, general sales manager, and remodeling company owner.  I encountered homeowners who absolutely refused to open their doors; others who opened the door but only let me in so far. Reaching the kitchen table was often simply out of the question. I had to learn to do my sales pitch and close deals where prospects were most comfortable. Most of the time my deals were made on the front porch—but I have made it to the living room.

These challenges were not covered in any of the sales training programs I ever attended since about 98% of the remodeling sales force is Caucasian. I was on my own and had to learn how to overcome cultural differences if I wanted to be successful.

Flash forward to the present. There are many more prospects now who come from different cultural backgrounds.If remodeling companies would employ a more diverse sales team, sales and profits will increase.

My experience taught me that all sales scenarios can’t fit all people.

Now, as a sales trainer, I teach others how to respond to customer needs in a way that will best mesh with their cultural norms. Empathy and listening skills are at the top of the list. They are the beginning of cross-cultural selling success. Set aside personal agendas, beliefs, and concerns and focus on those of the client and genuinely show your interest.

Selling is not a mystery; it’s a total understanding of your fellow man that will improve any company's closing ratio and increase its bottom line. --Grant Winstead owns Grant Winstead Associates,