There is no doubt that rapport building as a sales skill seems natural to some and alien to others. Our differing personalities contribute heavily to this point, and as a sales trainer with over 25 years in the game, I still see experienced sales people struggle to demonstrate natural rapport building skills.
If we accept the old adage of, “People buy people first”, the building of a relationship is critical to move forward and should be a keen focus for any sales person and their sales manager or sales coach, as opportunity to position products and services can be lost at the first hurdle, based on your initial interaction.
So why is this, as most sales people will often have had some form of sales training, and rapport building should typically have been covered?
Here lies part of the problem, just because you make someone aware, show them a sales process, sales model or sales methodology and tell them what to do, does not mean they can then do it competently.
Sales people need more than just the theory to understand how to do it, and then spend the time to practice and be coached, to enable the necessary behavioural change for them to be confident and naturally credible in doing it.
When this is not done within a sales training course or programme, I find that with any process, people will use the bits they are comfortable and avoid the steps they are not so keen on.
As an example, how many times has someone tried to sell you something over the phone, paid no attention to you, but started selling to you straight away?
My experience is instantly, how I get them off the line as I certainly have not bought into them, never mind what they are selling.
So what’s the magic formula then to build great rapport?
The simple answer is there isn’t one, it’s about customer style recognition (Social styles), adaptation of your natural style and the communication skills to encourage the customer to engage in open general discussion. The reason being that rapport is about building a relationship and mutual trust before moving on within your sales process.
What about the correct amount of time for building rapport?
Well, that depends on the customer, spend too long with a more direct talking, logical thinker and you could frustrate them. Whereas if you are dealing with a more friendly and amiable style customer, rapport and relationship to them will be key, so take the time, engage, listen and build a relationship as trust is important to this persons own style.
Be as natural as you can without being too submissive, too pushy, over personal etc. and look for both verbal and non-verbal clues to help you decide when rapport exists and it’s time to move the conversation to business.
If we look at the skills of building rapport, it’s about taking an interest in them, not making them interested in you.
Find their interests; ask how their day is going? If not well, try and avoid talking about work and problems and instead ask what they would be doing when they finish or if they had the day off?
If they say they would be on the golf course or a spa and afternoon tea, you have just found an interest they will typically be willing to talk about.
The key point is that you do not have to have the same interest, it’s not about what you like, it’s about them, so probe further with open questions (Who, what, where, when, how) to encourage them to open up further .
Listen to each response carefully and ask further probing questions. Remember- we want to build trust, so get them talking. If they question you, that’s fine – but try to turn the interest back to them.
Don’t overdo it, remember to look and listen for clues to decide when to move the conversation on to business.
Another key thing to avoid are yes/no or closed style questions where possible; as this does not encourage the customer to open up and forces you to ask lots of questions with little feedback or positive engagement.
This is the number one issue I see when coaching and training rapport building skills and is a critical behavioural change that is required to build natural conversation.
You may say this does not apply when you are with family and friends, as they will naturally open up on their responses and expand on a closed question, but a customer is very different if trust does not yet exist and its hard work for you if all you get is yes/no as the response.
No wonder then that this is where sales people often move the conversation to selling, as it’s difficult and many people feel uncomfortable with this stage of the conversation, but the one thing they have not bought yet is YOU!
Rapport building naturally
then is for some part natural and for others a challenge that must be mastered, yet it is a skill that can be taught, coached and honed to create better sales opportunities.
How would you currently rate your rapport building skills? If there is room for improvement or if it’s not where you want it to be, we can help. Give us a call for a chat.