Rapport building is the first step in developing a new relationship. A prerequisite for trust, customer loyalty and engagement, which ultimately leads to a long-term business relationship.
Mirroring is a term that describes the situation where people in rapport start to act the same way. They will nod at the same time, delivering similar energy level and non verbal cues. All indicators that they trust each other, which is the foundation of a quality relationship that land in sales. However, rapport cannot be faked. Deliberately mirroring and matching a person can backfire with the client feeling deceived, making it unlikely to close a deal. It is also important to appear original and genuine to avoid being associated with a standardized “stereotypical” salesperson, characterized by being pushy or aggressive. To be more approachable, sometimes an informal, relaxed approach works better.
Listen and Observe
The best way to get rapport is to really listen and observe, familiarize oneself with the prospect. Engage in small, non-business conversations on shared interest, such as the stock market, that can get the conversation started for later. Hear what the prospect has to say and how they are saying it. Sensing the prospect’s communication style and adapt accordingly. Some behaviour to look for includes the speed, their willingness to control, knowledge base, extroversation, use of humor, emotional status, and decision making style.
Show understanding and general interest of the prospect both personally and professionally. Give verbal indications such as “this is a nice idea”, “this must have been challenging” to show empathy with their feelings and interest in what they have to say. Have the verbal implications be aligned with no verbal cues through eye contact, nodding, smiling and authentic facial expressions. It is good practice to summarize and paraphrase back to verify your understanding. After all, ensuring what you heard is correct is important when crafting a solution.
Follow up with questions
Follow up and ask questions for a deeper understanding of the situation based on what the prospect had discussed. Speak their language. Use the same terminology as the prospect and talk informally if that is how the prospect approaches the meeting. For instance, if the prospect mentions that “I can see a time when the staff have good time management”, the response could be something like “ Tell me more about how things will look when tasks are completed on time?”. And if they indicate that he or she is genuinely interested to move forward, the response could be to ask more about how they feel.
While sales people generally know the importance of being customer oriented and following suit with the client’s style and interest. However. Some salespeople fall back into their routine, pre-planned agendas and scripts. Thus missing the opportunity to build rapport.
Facilitate positive feelings
Many challenges arise in new client acquisition. As mentioned previously, it is important for salespeople to develop a confident and inspiring mindset prior to the meeting. Unfortunately, this may not be the case of the client. They may not be willing to come to the meeting in the first place, and had only come because it was asked by their manager or felt that it is part of their responsibilities to do so. Unmotivated, they do not focus on the meeting but rather are occupied with other tasks at hand. Such situations require the sales people to react immediately and intervene to the client's absence and disconnection. Potential solutions include asking for a short increment of their time to explain or proceed with in-depth questions to draw their attention. If occurred in the beginning, humorous ice breakers and polls can also be considered.
Additionally, the circumstances may not be favorable. The client is questionable about the likelihood of a solution, leading to a very negative atmosphere. The negative issues need to be addressed but at the same time skillfully turn the tide. Mention the positive signs and remove the negative feelings to a positive outcome. Establish the purpose of the meeting and optimism,
Rapport building is the base of a trustful relationship with the client. Many actions lead to rapport building. Other than preparatory actions, such as sharing agenda items, doing background research, can be done by the salesperson prior to the meeting. Others are accomplished together with the client, thus requiring the sales people to quickly adopt and communicate effectively. These include finding similarities, asking follow up questions and small talk engagement. Be proactive and stay relevant. Successful rapport fosters long term relationships and allows for minor communication mistakes later on.