Building rapport in sales requires more than hiring sales representatives with an outgoing personality — it takes discipline and a framework to ensure that proper preparation and implementation are taking place across the board within the sales organization.
Building rapport is a strategic skill and process that takes forethought and preparation and could take on a life of its own.
While it’s possible for relationships with clients to automatically click or to find a convenient conversational cue, like a vacation photograph or trophy in the client’s office, those who do their homework find it easier to connect more often and with more people.
Building Rapport is a Critical Selling Skill
Building rapport is a component of “relating,” which is one of Richardson’s Six Critical Skills for effective consultative selling. It is the foundation of a relationship based on harmony or affinity.
It doesn’t pay to be casual about making connections with clients because people have a natural preference for doing business with those whom they know, like, and trust. Rapport building in sales seems intuitive, but it’s a challenging skill to practice because of its personal nature, and it’s sometimes difficult to mirror behavior with skills.
How to Build Rapport in Sales
Sellers can easily miss opportunities to connect and create rapport with clients when they take the situation for granted, are nervous, or are driving their own agenda. The salesperson who excels at this interpersonal skill is one who thinks about their plan to build rapport before the client meeting takes place.
The techniques you use have to be both genuine to the salesperson and appropriate for the client’s style and culture. There doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out process. By paying close attention to how the other person reacts and responds, it should be easy to gauge how much time to spend on this relationship-building stage and what needs to be communicated.
The following are two simple tactics your sales team can employ to build better rapport with their clients.
(1) Build Rapport By Asking Questions
The best way to build rapport is to use questions that show interest; then, listen closely and respond appropriately.
You should look for authentic opportunities throughout the meeting. In some cases, a client who wants to get right down to business may be more open later in the meeting. And, if a visual cue in the office provides an opener, all the better.
Whatever you learn about the client in one meeting can always be used in future meetings, especially with the growth in social media. The strength of the client rapport emerges when the connection continues after the sale is made.
(2) Build Rapport on Two Levels
Rapport in sales can be built on two levels: personal and business.
The internet has made learning about clients faster and easier. Even a short internet research session should be enough to provide some solid questions in areas that matter to the client.
A bonus is that sales professionals also have the opportunity to learn about the larger company culture while researching the individual prospect. Such preparation earns respect and time.
Here are some quick tips on how sales professionals can use the internet to research information that will help them build rapport:
- Personal Level: Personal information can be found through Google searches and alerts, LinkedIn, Twitter, free articles, and other social sites. You can see where the client has worked and in what cities, or you can even discover recent conferences that the client spoke at or attended.
- Business Level: Business information is most readily found on the client company website, along with YouTube channels, LinkedIn company pages, and company Twitter accounts. Information can also be found on marketing automation systems in which you can track what web pages they hit and read.
Sincerity is a Key Strategy for Building Rapport in Sales
Whatever preparation method you use, be genuine. Your sincerity and interest must come through and be perceived by the client. When creating strategies for building rapport as a part of the sales process, remember these key concepts:
- Be sincerely interested
- Pick up on cues
- Do your homework
- Be client-centric
- Be well-mannered
And, when you layer on the skills of verbal acknowledgment to what the client says and empathy to your efforts, you will have set the stage to truly and authentically relate and build rapport with sales clients.
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