The Problem
Foreign-born clients and prospects who try to negotiate every aspect of the project.

The Reality
Get used to it. “Most of the world negotiates everything,” says Michael Lee, a multicultural marketing consultant. As your market becomes increasingly diverse, your growth may hinge on homeowners from the “negotiating cultures” of Asia and elsewhere.

For perspective, consider that the average hourly wage in India is 33 cents. “It can be a big deal for someone from India to save $10,” or $1,000, Lee points out. Time may be money here, but elsewhere time is for developing relationships. They're not bargaining to beat you up, but because bargaining is deeply and irreversibly ingrained in their cultures.

The Solution
Become a better negotiator. Lee, who teaches a workshop called “Black Belt Negotiating,” says you should expect to do some negotiating but should also know how to shut it off. Try saying, “If there's no more negotiating, I will give you a very special gift at the end of the project.” From then on, each time they try to bargain you down, remind them of the gift in a casual, light-hearted way.

Prepare for “nibblers,” or clients who ask for freebies after signing the contract. For example, “If they ask for upgraded hardwood,” Lee says, “ask them to increase their deposit or something.” Be firm. They'll soon realize that you'll always nibble back, and they'll stop.

If you absolutely never negotiate, say so in a way that negotiating clients understand. They'll think you're a liar if you flat-out say, “We don't negotiate.” Say that because you've charged this price for other projects, to save face with your other clients you must do this job at the same price. “They'll never ask you to lose face,” Lee says.

Select a gift unique to the client or to their project, but be careful. Some gifts —even colors of wrapping paper — can be offensive. To Asians, for instance, clocks symbolize the winding-down of time; “It's like saying, ‘I wish you were dead,'” Lee says. His book, Opening Doors lays out gift-giving do's and don'ts.

Michael Lee, EthnoConnect; 800.417.7325