How I retooled my business to attract Chinese & International Clients

How I retooled my business to attract Chinese & International Clients

A few years ago I noticed that more and more of the business enacted in our marketplace was from new immigrants or investors from offshore, mainly mainland China. Not wanting to be left out, I decided to actively engage in the Asian market and commit to it.

immigration destinations
Chinese Immigration Destinations by

Assembling a team

Not knowing where to start, I began looking at my present business which was based solely on me and I decided a TEAM approach was needed. I already had a team member who was a recent immigrant from England and she knew very well what was needed when moving to a new country. Most immigrants are overwhelmed when they land and they need someone to assist them through the quagmire.

I also had a team member who could be my local backup and look after the areas that I had been “farming” for years, like a true old school REALTOR…but I knew that I still needed to grow.

It was time to explore a new BRAND. I knew that my more local brand was comfortable for me, but wanting to throw myself on the International stage, worldwide coverage was what I needed to offer my clients. I decided that Sotheby’s International Realty Canada was exactly where I wanted to go. I was targeting high net-worth clients who bought and sold wine, art, jewelry and of course, homes. SIRC is a marketing company that sells real estate and has been a great choice for me. The Sotheby’s Auction house and the clients that they send our way have also been a huge bonus.

sothebys auction
Sotheby’s Fall auction in Hong Kong

Next, I looked for someone who could help me expand my understanding and knowledge of the Asian community, especially those speaking Mandarin. I had known a talented Mainland Chinese agent and been impressed with her smarts, affability and business acumen. I made the jump and asked if she would like to work with our team. She said yes and before long she was so active and successful that we had to add a Mandarin speaking assistant who would translate and assist her.

Getting through “The Great Firewall of China”

Note that the middle class in China is a population of over 300,000,000 and the government there controls the Internet and their citizens accessing it: workarounds and commitment are needed to succeed in attracting the Asian buyers and sellers. China has no Google, Facebook and Twitter, and an out-of-country website can take two minutes to load for viewing. We knew that we would have to establish a web presence that allowed our listings to be viewed behind the “Great Firewall of China”.

So here we were with all the tools…now we had to decide what to do with them.

Travel to China is a must, having a sense of the culture, customs, food and of course, Feng Shui. Knowing some of the diverse cities and some of the history and demographics of the largest economy in the world and being ready to commit to a yearly sojourn to cement relationships face-to-face became extremely important.

team asia at hong kong fall auction
Team Asia – Tracy An, Jim Burtnick and Richard Silver in Hong Kong

More was needed and I had to add to the recipe. I decided to commit to:

  • Attend at least two international conferences per year. If your brand has networking events, make sure you are at all of them.
  • Travel internationally and visit every brand office that you find in your travels. Meet with them, have coffee and meals and share your war stories and successes.
  • Travel to the countries which are most responsible for immigration and investment. Make sure you learn the customs and use “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands” as your Bible in dealing with people from foreign backgrounds.
  • Complete my CIPS designation – Certified International Property Specialist. It consists of a five-day course/tour of each of the continents, where we learn about real estate issues around the world and learn about expectations and customs.
  • Be prepared to spend money advertising in non-local media and web sites.
  • To say the least, marketing property within China is daunting with no access to Facebook, Twitter, Google or any of its apps so a trip to Mainland China can especially be a cultural and technological shock. However, if you want your wares to be seen in China, you will have to upload them to web sites that are behind “The Great Firewall of China”. You will have to establish strong relationships with salespeople in China as well as China-based bankers who have high net-worth clients and can direct their clients your way.

Once you are back home, you must realize that there is a 12 hour, more or less, time difference: so as you are rising, half way around the world, they are sleeping. And to make life even more difficult, Chinese buyers and sellers do not use email, unless they know and trust you, they are more comfortable texting or on WeChat, (not unlike Facebook’s Messenger app).

You will have to be prepared to pay large referral fees as part of the culture. It is a part of life and everything is up for negotiation. Never be offended by low offers and know that if the client really wants the transaction, it will happen…. more patience may be needed as negotiations can go on for long periods and at the end of the day go nowhere.

It has been and continues to be a great journey. It is a huge commitment but one with many benefits and joys. I know that it is the future strength that I can offer my clients and I have already seen a change in the quality and price range of properties that we are now marketing.


13 Replies to “How I retooled my business to attract Chinese & International Clients”

  1. Great story, Richard! Congrats on the new focus of your business. Phenomenal work, and helpful for all who want to do international business. Thanks for being so generous with your expertise and insights!

  2. A truly interesting article Richard! You continue to be a great leader who through sharing continues to elevate others around you. I appreciate your insight and candidness. Well done!

  3. HI Richard,
    Really enjoyed your insights on branding and finding your market in Asia. It’s a complicated culture but so interesting. So fun to see you with Tony Joe, our friend, and our real estate agent in Victoria. Small world!
    All the best for your continued success,

  4. Great idea about attending international conferences. There is nothing like connecting with someone in person. Especially if they are on the other side of the globe. Great story Richard. I hope this move establishes your brand in that region.

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