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Building Relationships

Property Observer Dec – 2013

Building relationships vital to dealing with Asian buyers: Anthony Chiminello

With an influx of foreign investment interest in Australia, it is vital to bridge cultural differences for a smooth working relationship and successful business transactions. Melbourne property consultant Anthony Chiminello, who has had 15 to 20 years of experience dealing with clients from various backgrounds, tells Property Observer that the basic requirements or approach to negotiation for everyone – regardless of cultural background – is “fundamentally the same”: respect, honesty, and professional service. Yet he has noticed that it is important to utilise those qualities according to different cultural requirements. He believes Australia is missing out on billions of dollars worth of business with China and other Asian neighbours because Australians focus on the deal first, rather than seeking to understand the clients and their culture. “In the west, we deal with clients on an intellectual level. That tends to restrict the transaction to very broad terms: How much money you’ve got, and what I’m prepared to sell you,” Chiminello said. In his experience, he has found that cultivating a deeper relationship with the client often pays off. “It’s about understanding each other, the person behind the deal and the culture. It takes time and some effort, investing a bit more emotion or heart,” he notes. Conversely, investing time getting to know a potential client may not necessarily result in a deal. But Chiminello says that those clients were usually referrals from their relatives or associates. “Sometimes you’ll find you develop a friendship with someone and there’s no business, but they then become your ambassador and promote you to all their friends and relatives,” he said. He also advises that there will be clients out there who will “use and abuse”, but it’s also up to the other party to know when to draw the lines and know that someone is wasting their time. “It’s good business sense, as opposed to being caught out,” he said. One of the biggest challenges in bridging the cultural divide between an Australian property consultant and an Asian client is allowing enough time for both parties to get to know each other, Chiminello says. “Patience can be a big challenge, especially in a fast-paced world,” he said. “Sometimes their decision timeline is a lot longer. They tend to want to know a lot about peripheral things than the deal itself – more importantly, they want to get to know you,” Chiminello added. Language can also be a barrier, especially with investors from Mainland China. Chiminello feels that interpreters sometimes do not accurately translate the emotions behind the language, resulting in a lot of wasted time trying to understand what the other party actually means. While “Asian buyers” can be a broad term, Chiminello adds that investors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia are aware of western values and practices, making it easier for property consultants. However, the emerging middle classes from Indonesia, Mainland China, and Vietnam have not necessarily been exposed to western business practices. In this case, there could be a learning curve in getting to know a prospective client. Chiminello notes that the idea of building a relationship with a client stems from Confucian teachings which emerged some 2000 years ago. “That philosophy is carried through, and it should be a basic premise for long-term business and improving the potential of doing business with each other. It’s about getting to know the person’s culture and getting to know them in detail. In many ways, it’s common sense,” he said. Here are Chiminello’s top tips for building relationships with Asian buyers:

  • Don’t expect to do a deal on your first meeting.
  • Take an interest in the person on a holistic level. This includes their life, culture, lifestyle and family, as opposed to just focusing on the business.
  • Build a sense of trust between the two parties.
  • Cultivate some patience before jumping into a deal, and don’t expect everything to happen yesterday.

As a result of his interest in building goodwill and cultural ties with Australia’s Asian neighbours, Chiminello has produced a publication titled ‘Calendar for Life’. It features bilingual poems coupled with illustrations by children from Singapore, Malaysia, China and Melbourne based on the theme of harmony. The publication can be purchased online. dleow@propertyobserver.com.au