#2013-8 Multicultural manners that matter: American etiquette is not universal for homebuyers

As children, we’re taught to “mind your manners”. Since I’ve been working with New American homebuyers and new home sales professionals, I’ve discovered that it’s not always my manners that I need to be minding!

With so much ethnic and racial diversity in the United States today, anyone in new home sales needs to be more culturally aware. Good manners, such as shaking someone’s hand or finishing everything on your plate, might actually offend someone from a different cultural background.

When I was researching and writing my ebook, New Home Sales Training: Selling New Homes In a Multicultural America”, I uncovered a lot of etiquette rules that new home sales professionals need to be aware of.

For example:

  • Smoking. Americans are big on the “no smoking” rule, but it’s not nearly as prevalent in other cultures. Don’t be surprised for someone to light up without asking permission. If smoking is prohibited where you are, be sure to advise your New American client as politely as possible.
  • Punctuality. I subscribe to the belief that if you’re not early, you’re late. I have no tolerance for tardiness! People from countries like Germany and Switzerland are customarily punctual and will expect you to be the same. However, lateness is acceptable in other cultures, like Middle Eastern, Nigerian, and Russian. When setting an appointment, explain that a 5:00 meeting, for example, means that you will be prepared to start at 5:00. Ask them if they share the same view.
  • Handshaking. Many cultures outside the United States prefer a bow to a handshake. To be safe, wait until your home buyer extends a hand before offering yours.
  • Gender equality. Very few countries share the American view of equal rights. Speaking to or touching a woman from another culture—like Muslim and Hindu—may be forbidden. For women sales professionals, you need to know the cultural differences because they might affect your relationship with a male buyer.
  • Personal questions. Don’t be offended if a buyer from a different culture asks what you consider to be very personal questions. Japanese and Taiwanese people, for example, might be blunt enough to ask you how much you paid for your car. Certainly, you can politely respond that it is not your custom to reveal this type of information.
  • Table manners. This is where sales professionals can make a big mistake! If you’re dining with a New American prospect or family, take the time to learn a bit about their habits. Asians and Saudi Arabians, for example, often make a lot of noise when they eat. Koreans don’t eat everything on their plates, because it signifies that they are still hungry. Germans and Chinese do not like to discuss business during a meal. And a Belgian will take offense if you use a toothpick in public.

Learning the manners of other cultures is a big step in closing sales with New American homebuyers. Don’t make assumptions!

Next: Plan ahead for making a sales presentation to multicultural homebuyers

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