There are different ways to build rapport. On a personal level, building rapport can be accomplished by developing commonalities in life: living in the same town, having the same vacation experience, what someone reads like articles or a newsletter, knowing the same people, etc. On a professional level, rapport can be built by simply giving free advice and making a genuine connection and being able to converse about similar interests. This can be as basic as a personal talk or just being sincere in your efforts about what is communicated to your prospects and demonstrating that you care about their needs and hope to become a true partner.
In the case of the prospect that I mentioned earlier, we did not have a personal connection at first. She had a clear need. She knew what she wanted to do, and she was doing everything the right way. Her next step was to choose a partner from the outside to come in and train her people.
Our connection came through an open and engaging dialogue. I listened closely to what she was saying, and she felt that I genuinely understood her and wanted to help. I sent her a proposal and checked in at timely intervals. I also found opportunities to supplement our discussion by sending her blog posts and white papers that aligned with her circumstances. Each time, I would write her a short e-mail along these lines: “I ran across the attached and thought you might find it helpful.”
And, each time, she thanked me for being so proactive and for continuing to think about her initiative. She also began mirroring the communications by initiating contact with me, sending congratulations when she saw Richardson had again made Training Industry’s list of the 2015 Top 20 Sales Training Companies.
It seems obvious why you would build rapport of this kind; it is invaluable technique build. Still, I will give you a concrete example. The proposal that I submitted to this prospect was somewhat higher than what she expected, coming in above what other vendors proposed. I told her I would be happy to work with her and look for areas to save costs, but I didn’t want to diminish the value of our offering.
Dealing with price objections can be uncomfortable. But, in this case, because we had talked and built such rapport, we were able to easily discuss the value that Richardson brings to the table. She completely agreed with me and understood why the higher price was warranted.
Richardson is now among the finalists being considered for the engagement, and the prospect will be meeting with her boss shortly. The important thing to note is that, at this point, she considers Richardson to be an important collaborator. She has become, in effect, an advocate for Richardson based on our additional thought leadership in this area, regardless of us not being the lower-cost provider. She also sees that we genuinely care about this engagement and want her organization to succeed.
At this point, we have established such a collaborative relationship that, if for some reason Richardson does not get this business, at least I have opened a door. I hope that we do work together on this opportunity, but even if we don’t, I still feel that we have won to a certain degree. If the time is not now, I still see a tremendous opportunity down the road.
Building rapport, it definitely matters. It is not just a simple technique or about the opportunity in front of you. It is about creating a relationship that can last over time.