Building relationships with international clients is key to continued business opportunities, according to an industry expert.
“You need to build a relationship with a foreign buyer or seller,” said David Lauster, Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) instructor. “They may be considering a purchase in the United States for the first time and it’s your job to educate them and recognize that they may not understand our culture. How we work, what we think, our reactions to negotiations is important to help a foreign buyer understand the process.”
Lauster urges Realtors® to understand generalizations but avoid stereotyping people. “Treating people as individuals is key, but understanding generalizations can be helpful,” he said.
For example, the average Chinese and Japanese client would consider it inappropriate to discuss family during a business transaction. “Let them begin to discuss their family first and when they do, you know you’ve stepped up in their relationship,” Lauster said.
Cultures can usually be separated into high context and low context.
High context cultures (Asia/Pacific, Russia, Middle East, Central and South America, Southern Europe and Africa) are very conscious about how they are perceived, and how you are perceived. They don’t worry about being punctual, but they expect others to be.
“They don’t see the need to use humor in business so if you joke around, they may consider it an insult to them because you are their representative,” he said. “You always want to help them gracefully exit a situation to save face.”
In low context cultures (U.S., Canada, Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa), people are more informal, use direct communication, are results-oriented and operate at a fast pace. “These cultures are extremely fast paced and place a strong importance on punctuality,” Lauster said. “For example, in Germany, being late is almost certainly the kiss of death.”
“You can be sure your behavior is appropriate by studying your clients’ facial expressions and body language,” Lauster continued. “If the client is silent, ask questions like: ‘What did you like about the last home we saw? Do you understand the next steps in the process?”
It’s important to maintain a positive attitude. “The need to adjust for high- or low-context interactions is up to you, not your client,” he added. “Don’t let what’s going on in your life damage your relationship with your client. You should always project a positive attitude.”