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When Approaching The Hispanic Prospect, Don't Shoot Yourself In The Foot

The Hispanic potential customer has just walked into your showroom. Your salesperson visually acknowledges them and begins the approach. What happens next is critical. As soon as the salesperson opens their mouth, in those brief few initial seconds, your salesperson can choose to shoot themselves in the foot or present an excellent and lasting first impression.
Consider these scenarios:
In a company lunchroom two people were beginning their lunch hour—one male, one female. The woman, by all obvious appearances, was Hispanic and twenty-something. The man, attempting to be social, opened a conversation by referencing his lack of knowledge of the Spanish language. The girl responded in an insulted tone, “I don’t know a word of Spanish,” and with all the body language of being offended, she abruptly departed. What could have potentially been a pleasant exchange was ruined by assumption and ignorance.

One night at a club a man is enjoying a casual conversation with a woman who is obviously Oriental. Suddenly, she smiled wide and told the man, “Wow. You’re a really great guy. You haven’t said to me, ‘Hey, you speak really good English!’” It turned out that she was born in South Korea, brought to and raised in the United States as an infant, and the only language she’s ever known is English. Yet everybody she meets expects to hear her talk “a certain way” based solely on how she looks. That constant assumption is greatly offensive to her, and by not making that assumption, the man engaged in casual conversation with her made a good first impression.

At G20, we have familiarity with the training and procedures of law enforcement. Probably the most important and most compelling thing a police officer is taught is two simple words—never assume. Law enforcement officers are trained to never assume a scenario; to approach every situation as a blank slate. When they stop someone for a traffic violation, they never know if the person inside that car has a gun in their lap or is ready with the proper documentation in hand. They know to approach every single case with a blank opinion and zero assumptions.

Just imagine if our salespeople approached every situation with a “zero assumption” attitude and knowledge that their first move can either make or kill the sale. This is so true with the Hispanic customer, actually with any customer. Nevertheless, it is primarily the Hispanic customer that suffers the most from assumptions and ignorance by your sales staff. Let me elaborate.

I have discussed in previous articles what makes up the Hispanic market. Its sheer size and complexity comes from many different countries, cultures and sensitivities. The fastest way to ruin the approach is to refer to a Hispanic as a Mexican. Those of Hispanic heritage care for each other, respect each other and are accepting of the terms Hispanic and Latino, but are far from being all Mexicans.

I myself am Mexican, however many of my friends are from countries throughout Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Each of them takes pride in their country and is very proud of their heritage. It is critical that your sales team have cultural and sensitivity training. The respect and intelligence your team shows the Hispanic prospect can reap vast rewards.

With Hispanics, language is a great way to establish rapport. However, do not assume Hispanic customers speak Spanish or even know a lick of Spanish. The third generation (and higher) of the Hispanic market consists of individuals fully integrated in American culture. They are in fact Americans and for many of them, the boom and popularity of the Hispanic market is not a pleasant experience. They find themselves a target of assumption everywhere. Everybody tries to speak to them in Spanish, send them information written in Spanish and sell to them in Spanish. English is the language they know and speak, and no one ever asks them. Recognize the deep, serious pitfalls of assumptions.

Do not make the mistake of doing a mental profile just by the way one looks. A salesperson needs to know more of the customer than their apparent heritage. We, as professional salespeople, must take extra time to ensure that we know the customer. In return, you’ll gain the trust of the customer easier.

When approaching the Hispanic prospect, take the proper time and use the proper skills to identify which language he or she wants to use—and if the person is even bilingual. If Spanish is the language of preference, you are most likely dealing with a first to third generation that is very sensitive to his or her customs and traditions. If English is preferred, then you’ve most likely got a third generation (or higher) Hispanic that is fully integrated in the American culture.

At your next sales meeting, I encourage you to discuss these points and to learn how many customers you lose when your salespeople shoot themselves in the foot. If you’re a franchise dealer, have the same meeting with your fixed operations department. Your service advisors should be working with a “Never Assume” mentality as well. It will help with more than just your Hispanic customer.

Vol 4, Issue 5


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