Multicultural Sales: 6 Gift-giving Tips

March 1, 2004

1. Bring a small, thoughtful gift when you meet with new customers. It’s expected in certain countries such as India, Japan, and South Korea. Beware: Giving a gift before the end of a business transaction may be considered bribery in some cultures.

2. Never outspend your clients or customers when exchanging gifts, so they don’t lose face. One strategy is to open your gift first, and then say you need to retrieve their gift from your car. You can have several wrapped and ready in different price ranges.

3. Avoid giving gifts bearing the American eagle to customers from China and Saudi Arabia. The eagle is a bad-luck symbol in those cultures.

4. Never give anyone who’s Islamic alcohol. Most people who practice this faith don’t drink.

5. Avoid giving Asian customers knives or scissors. Anything that cuts symbolizes the severing of a relationship.

6. Exercise caution when giving flowers. In Mexico and Brazil, purple flowers are associated with death. White flowers have a similar connotation in Japan.

Source: Opening Doors: Selling to Multicultural Real Estate Customers, Michael D. Lee, CRS®, GRI(Oakhill Press, 1999)