I started selling home improvement in Washington, D.C., and most of my customers were African-Americans. It was easy for me, an African-American, to relate to their buying habits. I was — am — a member of the community and knew what kind of questions to ask who and when.

When I moved to the D.C. suburbs, more and more of the customers I saw and sold to were white.

I didn’t at that point have a lot of experience selling to white people, and what I found is that the differences are subtle but sometimes significant. Essentially, if you present your product professionally, cover all your selling steps so that the prospect warms to you and you build trust, you’ll close one out of every three sales.

For instance, I found, by comparison, that when selling to African-Americans, the needs assessment is critical. If you’re selling windows and the guy says his energy bills are too high, the house is drafty, and his wife is getting a chill, you’ve got the firm foundations for a sale. Provided you can also sell the company and the product.

Presenting Price

What I found to be the major difference in selling African-Americans, compared with Caucasians, was how price was presented.

African-Americans often want to buy a payment. So when you go to close, you don’t just throw a number out there. “The price of this siding is $19,457.”

You say: “What kind of payment can you handle?”

Caucasians, on the other hand, respond to a total price, and to the discount you might offer in order to close the deal tonight. So you wrap up your close by saying the cost of the job is $19,457 but a first visit discount would bring that to $17,404.

But what about selling to Indian, Korean, or Chinese prospects? These communities, along with Hispanics, make up the fastest-growing portion of the U.S. population. If you’re not seeing them, then you’re not selling them. And if you’re not selling them, then you’re missing out because, in many cases, they’re homeowners, and they’ve got money to spend.

Now, you might be thinking: Hey, if they’ve got money, they’re only going to buy (roofing/siding/windows) from somebody in their own community.

And guess what? Nine times out of 10, you’re right. Many, if not most, will resist buying a large-ticket product from someone outside their own social and cultural network. And many — I don’t like saying this — specifically distrust white males.

Does that mean you’re wasting your time running that lead?

No. What it means is that you have an opportunity to improve your closing average by learning to sell to people of different cultures. Instead of just selling to people like yourself, learn to sell outside the comfort zone. You may be reluctant to, but in many markets you sooner or later are going to have to. If you’re a company owner, probably the best way to start is by hiring from the outside. There are only so many good old boys you can sell. —Grant Winstead operates the Success Sales System That Never Fails, designed to help home improvement owners and salespeople close at higher rates and “put more profits in your pocket.” Reach him at [email protected] or 703.728.4966.