Rapport is a state of harmonious understanding with another individual or group that enables greater and easier communication. In other words, rapport is getting on well with other individuals by building a common ground in a way that makes communication simpler and easier.
In sales, rapport is an imminent part in landing a new customer. When a prospect feels you relate to them, feel their pain, and offer them a solution (instead of “pushing” your product) they are more likely to become a customer.
True, creating a positive first impression and building an initial relationship is not all you need to do to land a customer, but it’s a good start, and a good rapport increases the chances of the prospect feeling comfortable with you, sharing their desires, fears, and aspirations.
It’s not easy to walk the fine line between being a service provider and a friend. That’s what I’m here for – to show you exactly how to build a rapport with your potential customers without getting too involved. Let’s take a look at 3 simple ways you can strengthen your customer relationships:
Be Genuine and Empathic
People can cut through BS. If you’re not being genuine and direct with your prospects, they’ll notice. If you want to do good business, then do business that comes from a good place. Be sure to be straightforward, even if that means telling the person on the other end of the line something they don’t want to hear.
They know your product is not perfect, and it’s up to you to show them how, in spite of certain weaknesses, it can still be a great solution for them.
If you’re honest with your prospects, they’ll appreciate your integrity and will be more likely to continue doing business with you. What’s more, being your genuine self will help you feel more confident, sharper, and ready to deliver on whatever tasks are expected of you. Being genuine is the first step to cultivating a strong customer relationship.
That being said, it’s important to keep some things personal. Though you don’t need to be totally straight-edged with your customer-to-be, it’s important to keep in mind that your relationship is formal in nature, and that some things are meant to stay private.
Unless you somehow hit the jackpot and find your best friend in your prospect, you should maintain a degree of separation. When pertaining to business, however, never hold back on being genuine.
Moreover, you should try and sharpen your emotional intelligence, and understand the person you’re interacting with. Don’t focus all of your attention on “shoving” your solution down their throat. Listen to them, be attentive, and try to understand what’s holding them back.
Take an Interest
Don’t treat your prospect like a robotic money-machine. Your prospects are people with families and hobbies and weekend interests. Take a vested interest in their lives! You don’t need to ask them about the fight they had with their spouse last weekend, but they’ll appreciate if you ask them how their Christmas vacation was.
You should also take a minute to understand their culture, and adjust accordingly. You shouldn’t go as far as chancing who you are to fit their cultural characteristics, but you should definitely be aware and create appropriate responses.
As stated above, you don’t need to be best friends with your customers-to-be, but you should be friendly. Taking a deeper interest in their lives will do a great deal in forming a strong, loyal rapport. If each of your prospects feels uniquely special, they’ll do business with you forever – I can almost guarantee that.
Feel the Room
When contacting your prospects, it’s important to be able to “read the room,” even if you’re not actually in the same room with them. There’s a time for personal questions and there’s a time for nothing but business.
In other words, there are some days when you should absolutely engage in chitchat, but there are days when business needs to be tended to immediately.
If you can identify the mood of the room and deliver exactly what your prospect wants and needs, they’ll have no choice but to value you.
It’s sometimes difficult to identify the tone of a conversation, and it’s a skill that takes practice and astute observation. If you can master it, you’ll develop an emotional intelligence that will allow you to seamlessly maneuver that fine line between friend and partner.
These are simple ways to inject a human element into the business you do. People appreciate personality, and loyalty is the result of a strong rapport. There’s no need to go to dinner and a movie with your prospects, but taking an interest in their lives, acknowledging their needs, and being genuine and honest with them will help you cultivate lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
BONUS – Questions to help your rapport building
1. How was your weekend/holiday? Got any recommendations for me and my family?
2. Where are you from? Oh! Just last night they introduced a contestant on [reality show] from your city. Do you know [name]?
3. My [relative] wants to become [the person’s profession]. Got any advice?
4. Where are you from? Oh, I am actually planning a vacation there soon. What restaurants/attractions do you recommend?
5. I noticed on LinkedIn that you listed [unusual skill] as your skill/ that you speak [language] as your second language/ that you were a keynote speaker at [conference] – does this skill come in handy?/do you find speaking that language useful in your work?/how was that like?
6. I saw no Twitter that you’re a big [sports team/TV show] fan – tell me more about it.
7. I just read that your company reported [big achievement] – I bet you were excited when you heard the good news.