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Building rapport with customers is like squirting oil into gears. Imagine some gears grinding together. When you squirt lubricating oil into the gears, you reduce the friction and make everything work smoother.
So it is when two people interact with each other. Rapport, like lubricating oil, reduces the friction and makes the interaction work smoother. For a salesperson, creating rapport with any human being is an essential step that enables the customer to feel comfortable and leads to a much more effective sales interaction. The best salespeople create rapport with everyone.
Here’s the dictionary definition:
Fortunately, creating that sense of understanding and mutual trust is a skill which has been studied through the ages. Here are seven proven ways to build rapport with anyone.
Your attire should help you connect with the customer — not separate you from him. For example, if you are calling on production supervisors, you ought not to wear a suit and tie, as that will separate you from them, and generate a bit of discomfort in them.
The best rule I’ve seen is this: Dress like your customer, only a little better. On several occasions, I have worked with sales forces who sold to farmers. Blue jeans and flannel shirts are OK, as long as they are clean and pressed blue jeans, and a better quality flannel shirt.
But what if you call on several different types of customers in the same day? One salesperson shared his approach to this problem. He wore grey slacks, a blue button-down collar shirt, and a navy blazer. When he called on managers and executives, he dressed it up by putting on a tie. And, when he called on people who weren’t in the executive suite, he dressed it down by removing the blazer and the tie.
It’s disarming because it was unexpected. And, it’s honest, reveals something about you, and describes a situation with which almost everyone can relate. A good way to build rapport.
If you are not one of those people so gifted, then it’s better to stay away from this. Telling a joke that nobody gets, or having a glib comment being seen as sarcastic or caustic is NOT a good way to build rapport.
Not so long ago, I entered a prospect’s office building for the first time. The lobby was quite dramatic, with a two story atrium, and a soaring piece of sculpture. When he came down to meet me, I immediately told him that the lobby was very impressive, and that I felt very comfortable and a bit inspired because of it. We chatted for a few minutes about it and I then followed him to his office, having achieved some rapport.
In the previous situation, for example, I could have said, “Was it designed to create that kind of feel? “
“Boy, I had a hard time getting here on time. I must have run over some glass or something sharp, because about half way here, my right front tire went flat. Took me a while to change it. Glad I made it on time.”
That’s short, it’s personal, and it’s a bit transparent because it reveals something about you, as a human being. And, it’s something to which everyone can relate.
Building rapport is a science with proven practices and tactics. Use any of these techniques and watch your ability to create rapport improve, and thereby smooth out the way to more sales.
About the author
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries.