Q: I work in an area with a large Filipino population. I have spoken with several Filipino families about remodeling their homes, and although the conversations always seem to go well, I never hear from them again. What am I missing?
A: The Filipino culture is a “high-context” culture. As with Hispanics and many Asians, people from high-context cultures place great emphasis on relationships and avoid objecting in the “American” way. However, their body language will often subtly signal that they disagree or have concerns.
For instance, if a prospect is nodding while you speak, don't assume that he or she likes what you're saying. In high-context cultures, nodding simply means, “I hear you.” Pay attention to body language when you discuss price or other key issues. Try making a closing statement, and then be quiet. If their faces or bodies seem to tighten up, they probably have concerns. Similarly, observe the pupils of their eyes. If their pupils grow larger, they probably like what you said. If their pupils contract, they need more convincing.
Be an active listener. High-context homeowners rarely ask many questions but tend to nod and smile, regardless of what they're thinking. Watch out for quizzical looks, and ask if there's anything else you can tell them about cedar shake shingles, or the design/build process, or whatever you just said.
Don't expect quick decisions. They need to trust you, so take the time to learn about them, their families, their culture. Talk about your company being local and family-owned, if relevant; talk about your family. If they offer you food or drink, accept it.
Finally, if they hesitate to move forward, close for an appointment for your next meeting. People from high-context cultures may want input from family or friends. Don't specify a time (this can seem pushy), but say, “When would you like to get together again?” You may meet several more people the next time. It's called group decision-making, and it's a good opportunity to expand your relationship deeper into the community.
— 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, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.