Cross-Cultural Selling in Retail Automotive

cross-cultural selling

Today’s multi-cultural society is a discussion many Americans are having and regardless of which side we are on in this conversation, most of us are dealing with some degree of this challenging cultural reality that is modern America today.

Living in Florida the awareness of a multi-cultural society is all around me as our state is facing massive growth in both numbers and ethnic diversity.  So much so that, in some cities it can be difficult to find work in retail sales or service unless you are fluent in both English and Spanish.

When it comes to communicating across strict language barriers, transactions like vehicle purchases will usually require a translator.  In most areas where there are large populations of a specific ethnic group, dealerships will have someone who speaks that language on staff and those customers will find their way to someone who is fluent in their language.  In some cases where most customers are non-English speaking, many of the salespeople will either be the same ethnicity or bi-lingual.

Cultural differences and the Generation Gap

Cross-cultural differences can also refer to the unique way in which different generations view things and how they express those views through their behavior amongst themselves and within society in general.  This is often demonstrated by using slang when speaking as well as their fashion, hairstyles, jewelry or things like tattoos, facial and body piercings or other demonstrations of their differences with those from another generation.

Being highly successful in the automotive industry generally means selling as many cars as you can to as many people as you can, regardless of their ethnicity, economic status or unique generational differences and preferences. This can make having the ability to communicate well across various cultural lines a valuable tool to have in any aspect of the car business.

In some cases, just avoiding the shock or negative reactions these differences can invoke can go a long way toward making a connection and selling them a car.  You will find it hard to inspire a customer if you can’t get over the way they look, dress or talk.

Learning to celebrate such differences and finding ways to work across cultural lines can not only be a fun experience, it can also be very profitable for your paycheck and your dealerships bottom line.

The fact of the matter is that being prepared to do your job well in today’s diverse cultural environment may require a little more time and attention given to the ethnic or cultural differences in the customers you serve.  Those who take the time to learn how to sell across these barriers can expect to reap the substantial benefits that often come with growing your skill levels to reach a broad range of customers.

However, it is not just language barriers that make up the challenges of marketing to other cultures or ethnicities. Often, having knowledge of some of the simple things that are unlike our own cultures and traditions can make a real difference in creating a good impression on the customer.  Respecting someone’s cultural ways and traditions can go a long way toward breaking the ice and forming a successful working relationship across ethnic lines.

It often starts with the Meet & Greet

For instance, American salespeople are usually taught to offer a firm and confident handshake to customers as a way of introduction during the Meet & Greet process.  This can be considered highly aggressive or presumptuous in some Asian cultures like Japanese or Chinese. In the same way, a male customer from a strict Islamic background may be uncomfortable working with a female salesperson and may come across as demanding or disrespectful in that situation.

Working across these cultural differences requires learning how to recognize them and adjust your approach to customers accordingly.  Don’t just jump the gun and start selling and telling before you know who you are dealing with as much as possible. You don’t usually get a second chance to make a first impression so be aware of how your body language, facial expressions, posture and tone of voice are affecting the person or persons you are greeting.  Their perception of you can be greatly impacted by how they feel about the initial moments of that first contact.

Regardless of these things, your first goal is to discover what it is they are trying to accomplish and then evaluate what it will take from you to help them achieve their goal.  Always be polite and don’t take a “fake it till you make it” approach.  If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification in as polite a way as possible.  Remember, you are as different to them as they are to you.  Keep a friendly and positive attitude and you can usually find a way to work things out.

Many salespeople have found that taking the time to overcome these initial barriers can prove to be well worth the effort.  Once a customer from a different cultural background finds someone willing to put forth the effort to help them, they can become loyal customers for life and a bond can be formed that eventually proves profitable over and over again for the salesperson, the customer and the dealership.