Attendee Mabel Guzman roleplays a scenario depicting bad practices when dealing with global clients.

It’s the Little Things That Count With International Clients

Attendee Mabel Guzman roleplays a scenario depicting bad practices when dealing with global clients.

Attendee Mabel Guzman roleplays a scenario depicting bad practices when dealing with global clients.

It’s a no-brainer that when you’re working with international clients, you should know something about their culture so you can communicate more effectively. “But awareness isn’t sufficient—you need to change your behavior,” said 2011 NAR Past President Ron Phipps during a forum on global buyers at the 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego.

What global clients most want from you is respect for who they are and where they come from. It’s not the way you manage their home search or negotiate their offer that will convey respect. It’s the sensitivity and empathy you demonstrate in conversation and other interactions with them. “You can be the top producer in your area and be really, really offensive,” Phipps said.

During the session, several attendees role-played mock scenarios depicting common mistakes practitioners make when dealing with international clients, including:

  • Mispronouncing their name (and not attempting to correct yourself)
  • Making false assumptions about their finances (such as their family is funding their real estate purchase)
  • Ignoring their customary greetings
  • Dismissing their business card
  • Assuming they have a narrow focus on neighborhoods
  • Not matching their energy level or communication style

“Be careful on the simple behaviors,” Phipps said. He also suggested that one way to mitigate your chances of offending a client is to ask non-leading questions. For example, to avoid making assumptions about your client’s family structure, ask them how many people are in their family. Then ask, “What kind of home will meet your family’s needs?”

“In our culture, we want to get to the information quickly and move on,” Phipps said. “But take your time. Get to know them and show them that they can trust you.”

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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