Your sales rep knocks, extends his hand, and watches the Middle Eastern homeowners stare in horror. Another sales rep, presenting to Chinese immigrants, takes their silence and refusal to make eye contact as a sign of disdain. He has difficulty concealing his annoyance when the couple begin speaking Chinese to each other in front of him. His presentation collapses well before the close. Both appointments end without a sale.

ALL THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT Much as you might want to treat all customers the same, experts such as Michael Lee, of EthnoConnect, in Dublin, Calif., say that buying signs among different ethnic groups vary. Awareness of how members of ethnic groups buy, and where to look for signs of serious interest, can help you keep the presentation on track and end with a successful close.

“African-Americans are much like any other Americans,” Lee says. “They'll give you normal buying signs ... maybe even exhibit more exuberance. But don't get too excited because what may seem like wild enthusiasm might only be mild interest.”

Neither Hispanic nor African-American prospects, he says, are inclined to ask a lot of questions. Hispanics may not speak perfect English, and among both groups “if you ask a lot of questions,” he says, “it makes you look dumb.” Charles Gorse, general manager of Southern Siding, in Augusta, Ga., says that Hispanic prospects “don't like people showing up late. And you better do what you say you're going to do.”

Asian-Americans, especially immigrants, want to negotiate, Lee notes. Toward that end, maintaining a poker face is critical.

Home improvement sales trainer Rodney Webb points out that some minorities, especially African-Americans, “buy [based] on desire and want and status more than they do on need.” The key to arousing their interest in your product or service is to find a way to make it affordable. He advises that to sell African-American or Hispanic households, “build a picture that makes them want the product. Get them emotionally involved.”

SHOW ME HOW Not sure what's appropriate? Lee suggests that sales reps take their cues from prospects. “Introduce yourself and wait for them to respond. Don't assume they'll give you eye contact. Let them take the lead and [indicate to] you how they want to be sold.”

Assumptions can be disastrous, especially when translated to thoughtless words or actions. “Make them feel like they're dumb or that you're above them or that they can't afford it and it will cost you the sale every time,” Webb says.