Be Yourself, Be Natural
Being natural—yourself—whatever the type of client in front of you is the general guideline to be adopted, especially with international wealthy clientele. It doesn’t prevent you from adapting, but never go beyond this. Avoid behaving too differently from how you would behave with clients generally. Thinking that you will be able to better serve your customer by copying their behavior is a very common mistake with international clientele.
The first danger to avoid is to think that you should adopt certain mannerisms because your client thinks in a certain way due to cultural differences. Most of the time, these anticipations are wrong. Customers, whatever their nationality, expect the same level of service, and look for the best sales advisor as discussed in Chapter 1. Globally, the best sales advisors act consistently and in the same manner regardless of their cultural background or the cultural background of their clients.
The second potential area of discomfort in the relationship can come about from you making it difficult for your customer to anticipate your behavior. When you try to behave like someone you are not, your clients will be puzzled or confused. Some might even find your behavior funny. But they will never see this as a plus, unless you are able to completely adapt the total social code and rules, and are perceived as totally bi-cultural.
Also set some limits; do not go beyond what is possible in a conversation. Sales advisors should avoid talking about politics and religion—even if invited to do so. For example, Chinese customers sometimes like to hear your opinion about China but be sure to not get into any political commentary. Never go down these alleys simply because you never know what your client really thinks and you are not there to make personal comments. There are many other potentially interesting and neutral subjects to discuss.
Naga-san, a senior executive in Japan told me that bowing is a very complicated affair. In some companies, there are full-day training sessions on bowing etiquette: to whom, when and how. There are even degrees of angle according to whom you are bowing. It's a sign of politeness and also very explicit in the relationship. How can I learn all this subtlety I asked him? Well, just don't bow, he said. As a foreigner, you do not bow in your country and therefore you don't need to bow when you meet customers in Japan. I insisted: I want to show my respect for the Japanese culture and can absolutely learn. Well, Naga-san told me, in doing so you create a problem for yourself and your customers. You can try to learn but you will always do it wrong. Your customers, upon seeing you bowing, will be surprised and might not know how to react. "What shall I do then," I asked. "Why don't you just shake their hands?" he said with big smile.
Of course, you can proceed the way you would usually: bowing, kissing and shaking hands. The most important thing is to really be yourself, not pretend or be fake, and not forcing anything. Sincerity is the relationship anchor.