Rapport in sales has always been important for success. But now, with increased skepticism among buyers and lingering cliches about pushy salespeople, reps face challenges to building trust. But, these challenges can be overcome by consistently working to build and support rapport. “People want to trust each other, despite rampant skepticism,” RAIN Group’s President Mike Schultz writes. “And people want to buy from people they know, like, and trust. The way to earn that status is to focus on building and maintaining relationships, and not only on the transactional nature of closing a deal.” He goes on to share steps required, six of which are discussed here.
- Be yourself
- Be friendly
- Show real interest
- Find common ground
- Calibrate the rapport
- Read the culture
Rapport in sales: essential steps
The tasks Schultz presents are easy to implement and will create, and nurture, a strong foundation for rapport. Each one will resonate with today’s buyers, who increasingly value transparency, empathy and credibility.
Today’s buyers want to work with people who are authentic. Putting on a persona that’s not true to you will likely be easy to see through. Prospects will see through the facade, instantly damaging your credibility. Don’t feel like you need to “act” salesy to sell either; dealing with stereotypical sellers isn’t what buyers want.
Rapport in sales, like anywhere else, is rooted in friendliness. “Right or wrong, chilly people get chilly reactions from others.,” Schultz writes. “Even if you’re not the warmest person in the world, there are still some simple ways to be warm and friendly. Smile, for one. Give a firm handshake, make eye contact, and engage with the person in front of you.” He also cautions against forcing friendliness, which comes across as inauthentic. Simply smiling, making eye contact, and asking thoughtful questions comes across as warm and engaged.
Show real interest
Once again, authenticity’s role in building rapport in sales is evident in Schultz’s tips. As a seller, you must show buyers that you care about them–not just meeting your quota. “Buyers want to feel like they have an opportunity to share what they're thinking, including their desires, fears, and problems,” he explains. “More importantly, they want to feel like they're being heard. The more you can show you're listening to them by making the effort to relate, the more likely they are to keep talking.”
You can demonstrate your interest by engaging in active listening. As SalesFuel’s Tim Londergan writes, “[Active listening] is a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. Participating in listening requires constant interaction and observation. It is important, if possible, to maintain eye contact. This can be described as listening between the lines.”
For insight into how to improve your active listening skills, check out these tips.
Find common ground
Building rapport in sales also means connecting in meaningful ways with the others. A connection fuels trust, and it also helps kick-start dialogues as an ice breaker. Seek out ways that you and prospects can connect, whether it’s a shared favorite team, a hobby or even a colleague. If you aren’t sure where to begin, consider checking out their LinkedIn profile for insights into their past, as well as interests.
Doing “homework” on a prospect and the company not only informs you about their business, but also the prospect themself. It gives you the chance to uncover a connection that already exists. You’ll also be starting out already ahead of the competition, as only 32.7% of salespeople even review a prospect’s social media feed prior to contacting them.
Another way to build rapport in sales by uncovering commonalities is to create shared experiences. While you may have a similar interest in, say, golf, you can use that similarity to create a shared experience by golfing together. Do you have a shared colleague? Plan a lunch or happy hour get-together with the three of you. Also, don’t limit yourself to in-person engagement; many options are now available online to connect virtually.
Check out SalesFuel’s whitepaper, The 7 C’s of Pre-Call Intelligence, to learn how you can hone your own research skills.
Observe and adjust
It’s also important to be aware when making plans, calling on prospects, etc. Being respectful and conscious of others’ and how they do things is a must.
Calibrate the rapport
This step for building rapport in sales is one that many reps might not even have considered. “Read the other person—including their verbal and non-verbal cues—to calibrate your relationship building,” Schultz writes. Don’t assume how much time the prospect has to talk or what communication style they prefer. Start slowly and adjust your communications as you go so you align with the prospect’s preferences.
Read the culture
Observation is also important in regard to the prospect’s company culture. While keeping step one (being true to yourself) in mind, you should still be respectful to how the other business does things. This includes things like attire (business vs. casual), use of time (punctual vs. relaxed) and conversation style (formal vs. laid-back). You can stay true to yourself and be authentic while still being mindful and respectful of how the prospect does business.
“Communication extends beyond just what words are being spoken,” Rachel Cagle writes for Media Sales Today. “Regardless of what they may be saying to you, their body language and tonality are betraying that they’re stressed. Picking up on these sometimes subtle communication forms will help you know how to respond to your clients as well as show you what your body language and tone should be to balance theirs out.”
To build rapport in sales, there’s no script to memorize or training program to ace. You must tap into your own emotional intelligence and empathy to make meaningful connections. Schultz’s tips can guide you through this process, and he emphasizes that these behaviors are a discipline. “Work on it. Hone it. Try, fail, and refine—over and over again,” he writes. “Once you do that, you'll be well on your way to creating the lasting sales relationships you're looking for.”
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T