Q: How do I gain traction with Hispanic homeowners? We get calls from people who speak such limited English that my staff and I (who speak little Spanish) can barely understand them.

A: First, are you sure they're speaking Spanish? Accents can be hard to decipher on the phone; ask the caller what language he or she speaks. You may have an employee who speaks that language and can assist them, or someone in their home may speak English and might be able to serve as an interpreter when you meet.

If nobody is available to interpret, plan nonverbal ways to communicate in person. Hispanics tend to be more kinesthetic than verbal — they prefer movement, touching, and doing. Bring along magazines and portfolio photos so they can indicate what they like or don't like. Have them take you to the area of their home they want to focus on, and give them paper to sketch their ideas. Never act like language gaps are the prospect's fault. Use simple gestures, and constructive language such as, “To help us understand your needs ….”

If possible, invite them to visit a nearby job you have under way. Seeing your jobsite and your hardworking crew speaks volumes to Hispanics about the quality of your work.

To close, if you can establish a general price range, write it down with a dollar sign. If you will need to do additional research, point to your calculator, hold up your cell phone, and say you will call them mañana (tomorrow) with the information they need. As long as you communicate with patience and respect, they will find a way to do business with you.

Michael Lee is president of EthnoConnect, which provides training on how to sell to people from diverse cultures; www.ethnoconnect.com; 800.417.7325. If you have a sales challenge for Michael, send it to lthayer@hanleywood.com.