Today, here are five tips to consider incorporating into your strategy to establish rapport and maintaining good relationships with clients:
- Be genuine. First and foremost, be People can sense if you are faking interest, and they will be turned off right away. They make up their mind about who you are in the first minutes of an interaction. If they are not comfortable enough with you to trust your genuine interest, the relationship will be in trouble from the first conversation.
- Find commonality. Use social media tools like LinkedIn to find potential commonalities. Might your paths have crossed in a previous career? Did you work with someone the prospect has worked with? Did you go to the same school? Live in the same town? Beyond business commonalities, you may uncover personal commonalities, such as favorite bands, vacation spots, or family ties. Not all touch points can be uncovered online; sometimes, it is a matter of having a natural dialogue and good listening skills. That was how I learned that I knew the cousin of a prospect that I spoke with recently. While discovering a common acquaintance won’t guarantee business, it does open the door and build a rapport.
- Do your homework. Before I pursue a lead, the first thing I do is research. This gives me a baseline understanding of the company and my contact. I look at the company website. I read news releases and product announcements. I look for organizational changes and acquisitions. I look at executive bios and LinkedIn profiles. I search for industry articles and trends. All of this can be fodder for a good first conversation. And, prospects can be so appreciative that you have invested the time to do some homework that they are more agreeable with continuing the dialogue.
- Make rapport building a life skill. When you build a rapport; it is the first step in Relating, which with Presence, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking, forms Richardson’s Six Critical Skills for effective client dialogues. These are the foundational skills for interactions with prospects, clients, people that you coach, and your direct reports. In fact, I even use these Six Critical Skills at home with my kids. I find these skills so imperative for a successful dialogue that I call them fundamental life skills. Frankly, they all contribute to building rapport, which makes them so important to incorporate into your life personally and professionally.
- Laugh a little. Sometimes on a call, the conversation will hit a lull, and I’ll just hear silence. That’s when I might say something and laugh a little, both to break things up and inject some energy. It doesn’t always work, but I have been lucky with this tactic thus far. I have a big laugh, and I tend to talk with my hands. So, sometimes, just describing that scenario over the phone can keep the ball rolling while making things more real.
For some sales professionals, establishing rapport requires some effort. Others come by it naturally. Either way, it is important to establish rapport at the outset. It can make all of the difference between a good relationship and a great one.