Mauricio Espinosa, founder of Grupos 20, a Hispanic 20 Group benchmarking company, emphasizes the need in auto retailing for awareness of and sensitivity to the differences among people comprising the vast Hispanic market.
“If you are in Texas, for instance, you'd probably be correct in assuming that most of the Hispanic background is Mexican,” says Espinosa. “However, the market may have some Venezuelans, Argentines or Bolivians, among others. If you concentrate too much on Mexicans, you will miss the Latinos from other backgrounds and may even alienate potential high-value customers.”
Espinosa was part of a special seminar that gave auto dealers a crash course in selling to the expanding Hispanic market.
G20 and NCM Associates Inc. developed the seminar — “How to Sell to the Booming Hispanic Market” — in association with the Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Kansas City Automobile Dealers Assn., Kansas Automobile Dealers Assn., Missouri Auto Dealers Assn. and National Independent Auto Dealers Assn.
Held in Overland Park, KS, the conference drew more than 40 area dealers and managers.
The gathering was in response to dealers' common missteps and misperceptions regarding the cultural and legal issues in hiring, training and selling to Hispanic employees and customers.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing and largest minority group in the nation, comprising 13% of the U.S. population. They also represent more than $580 billion in buying power.
There are negotiation differences between American and Hispanic customers, says Espinosa. Americans tend to prefer negotiation sessions that are quick, informal and center on the proposal first. Hispanics prefer a longer, more formal process that offers explanations first, then the proposal, says Espinosa.
He says American customers are more aggressive and looking for a “good deal,” whereas Hispanics are more questioning and looking for a long-term relationship.
Meanwhile, auto dealerships employing Hispanics should know of cultural differences in the work environment, says Espinosa. He says Hispanic workers will respond better to a long “paternal talk” from a manager, rather than a reprimand and quick discussion.
He says Hispanics tend to be hard-working and their way of exchanging information tends to be more indirect. Consequently, their reports tend to be longer than necessary by American standards.
“Training on this cultural issue becomes very important for reports and meetings,” he says.
Espinosa produced a 7-DVD training series that teaches Hispanic employees how to sell to Hispanic customers (in Spanish) called “Escalera al Exito,” or “Steps to Success.”
“Everybody knows that the Hispanic market is a big thing, but nobody could find meaningful literature and training tools addressing what to do with it,” he says. “So, I created it myself.”
Nix the Flamenco Dancers
Points raised at a metro Kansas City auto retailing conference on selling in the fast-growing Hispanic market include:
- Get involved in the local Hispanic community. Do not send “token” Hispanic employees as representatives. The dealer must get involved.
- Understand the Hispanic culture from a consumer and employee point of view. Taking the time to develop trust goes beyond a handshake and a sale. Build relationships.
- Dealers say they've generated sales traffic but were unable to close deals due to some Hispanic clients' lack of credit history. Seminar participant Keith Whann, an attorney, says, “You are born with no credit.” Yet immigrants to the U.S. are treated as if they had negative credit, because they lack credit histories. The general consensus: Hispanics are among the most reliable borrowers, but don't get a fair deal.
- Hire a bilingual receptionist. That person is usually your first line of contact. CiCi Rojas, president of the Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says she gets daily calls from dealers seeking bilingual employees.
- Many dealers focus on serving the Hispanic customer in the showroom. But when the client returns for service, the Hispanic-friendly culture is absent.
- Be sensitive and knowledgeable. One well-meaning dealer had a Sept. 16 Mexican Independence Day promotion for his Mexican clients. At the dealership he had Flamenco dancers. But those represent Spain, not Mexico. Mexicans won independence from Spain.
- Selling to the Hispanic market doesn't require remaking your dealership.