A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from an insurance salesman asking me to be an agent. After I told him I was not interested, he wanted me to recommend him to people in the Asian community. I jokingly told him (now I really regret it) that whenever he approaches an Asian American for assistance in doing business, he needs to make it mutually beneficial. At first he seemed shocked, and then his immediate response was that I would get satisfaction from helping out my friends. But what about my reward for helping you, I asked? He said, “If you help me, I will help you”. Ri--ght.

In order to get him off the phone, I told him the Asian Americans I know are mostly engineers and I was afraid they would not be interested in selling insurance. Big Mistake. He started vehemently telling me how wrong I was and that there are plenty of Asians who have succeed in this industry. I finally surrendered and told him he was right. Then he laughed with satisfaction and hung up.

If he approaches others in the Asian community, he would have a very difficult time penetrating into this market. Unfortunately he is not alone.

When considering marketing your products or services to the Asian community, there are certain things you should know that may help you avoid a cultural curve ball.

First, we only help those we like.

I can’t stress enough about building relationships before talking about business. If we like you, we will do anything to help you. If we don’t like you, you can just kiss the deal goodbye, and it doesn’t matter how good you are.

There is a saying, slow down to speed up, which can be used as a motto when dealing with Asians.

Second, we like to bargain.

In other words, we are cheap (except for name brands). There is a recent TV show “Fresh off the Boat” where the two Chinese sisters were competing for their mothers’ approval, and one of their tactics was to show how much discount they were able to get from purchases.

That’s right. We get satisfaction from bargaining.

Third, be humble.

In Asian culture, modesty is the best policy.

Always consider others more important and valuable than yourself, and act accordingly. Avoid bragging about yourself or your success.

Being humble also means not to argue with or contradict the others directly, especially in public. One option is to ask those with more seniority or authority to be a mediator or intermediary.

When in doubt, ask someone who is familiar with the Asian culture.