Rapport is a loop of conversation where you feel in sync with another person. In the sales process, that link is between the salesperson and a prospect. Knowing when you have rapport – and when you do not – will become apparent.
My rule: I will not continue the sales process if I can’t establish rapport, especially when the prospect has no interest and, on a call out, shows you where the equipment is not wanting to engage in conversation.
To connect with other people requires sincerity and humility.
Sincerity is the quality of being genuine and pure. People sense when you are self-patronizing; you act in a self-serving way.
Jim Rohn, one of the early self-development consultants, is a well-known trainer worldwide, and whom Tony Robbins worked for, said the following about rapport.
We must be genuine and have a sincere interest in life and people to connect with them.
For me, this comes naturally. I am truly interested in other people’s lives and what they do. It means that I can quickly connect with others and be genuinely curious. Frequently, when I meet a new person, I ask, “I’m curious. Tell me what you do for a living.” Taking the time to ask questions about another person leads to a common connection. However, if not conducted with humility and gratefulness, this might appear self-serving. For that reason, ensure the sincerity in your questions and responses.
When others take the time to share their experience with me, I’m humbled. After all, gentleness, patience, and humility is a powerful persuader; It comes from the heart and cannot be imitated – if you try to fake it, people will see through it.
From my experience.
Let me give you an example. Although I haven’t completed Dale Carnegie Training, it has a strong reputation. However, when I invited a salesperson from the organization to my office to share more about the strategy, I immediately knew the representative was searching for a common interest to start a loop of communication. How? The representative was searching the walls and looking for pictures to find a link between us. While this did not bother me, it was visible. So be careful, be real, and be natural in your communications with others. Unfortunately, this salesperson was not natural in their approach.
At a large firm I consulted for, I was there so often that I had a small office where I set up a base. In my space, technicians would come for sales counseling, and on one particular morning, I remember one of the firm’s owners bounding in during a session with a technician. He picked up a book on my desk, complimented my reading habits, and when I asked if he’d like to borrow the book, he said no, changed the subject, and bounded back out of the office. He’d left with what he came for.
After the interruption, the technician and I returned to your session, but the technician was distracted.
“What was that about? He doesn’t care about that book or your reading habits. That was patronizing, and not sincere.” The technician fumed and continued. “He only cares about himself. Did you see the way he picked up that book?”
It wasn’t only the owner’s words but also the non-verbals he conveyed. Both the technician and I sensed his self-serving attitude and lack of humility. Clearly, he had learned how to manipulate others to control them. He didn’t love others as much as he loved himself.
What can you take away from this example?
To build rapport with people, you must love them even when they don’t deserve it – I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’ve ever had a prospect not show up, you might become angry and judge them. For a long time, this was my response, and it took time to learn not to react with anger and judgment.
Love and business?
Love is simply a choice to treat others a certain way even if they don’t deserve it. While none of us deserve and none of us owe, therefore we are not entitled, and we are not indebted. As a result, we are free to give and receive freely.
Patience is the ability to wait, demonstrate tolerance in the face of adversity, and at times, suffer without frustration and anger.
For example, becoming annoyed with a prospect won’t improve the situation.
The idiom, he has the patience of Job, is a strong example. Job, from the old testament in the Bible, suffered for a long time after he lost his family, his money, and his health. However, through all of that, God said Job did not sin. He never gave up on God. This is a picture of significant suffering or perseverance, and both of these are choices. For example, I decide not to become annoyed with this prospect, and I choose to be patient with them even when they treat me like the hired help.
My business, Hamrick Daviston Heating and Air, was built on proactivity. Most of my appointments were challenging to close because their systems weren’t broken. My role was to lead the customer to discover that they had “pain” which could be treated to improve their everyday life.
We didn’t wait for the customer to call us, we called them. Often when I showed up at a property, they were not home. Sometimes prospects met me on the porch and told me to leave because they changed their mind. This was hard work.
On one occasion, I arrived at a property, and the prospect cracked the door about one inch to speak to me through the crack. I knew immediately this was going to be a challenge, and I had a choice to make.
The prospect was not receptive and was as cold as ice. So I persevered through the process and was patient with her. She does not owe me anything, but I decided to endure through the process to build a connection with her. At this stage, there is no selling allowed; we haven’t established a connection.
Equipped with a sincere interest in the lives of others, as Jim Rohn taught me, I got lucky. I asked the prospect, “Where did you retire from?” This question sparked a connection. The prospect had worked at the doctor’s office I had visited as a child.
After I found this connection, we spoke about our former Doctor, Dr. Wilson, the community church, his tragic death from cancer twenty years ago, and the Wilson family.
What happened? I established a loop of communication. We were listening to each other and enjoying past common memories, which established a deep rapport through the commonality between us. Additionally, I’m building trust; the prospect’s attitude had changed from when I arrived at the property. Later, she introduced me to her husband who walked me through his yard, and I listened to him talk about his flowers. This is the topic he wanted to share with me, so I listened with sincerity.
When they were ready, we returned to the kitchen to discuss their pain – what their compelling reason would be to put in a new heating and cooling system. We talked about the budget and financing needs. We talked about what it looked like when they made decisions and If they had the authority to decide on their own. Nobody else would need to make a decision, so I made a call to get them pre-approved.
Now I had everything in place and I started my presentation. I’d qualified the prospect. They were pre-approved for financing. They have a compelling reason to spend the money called pain. They can say yes or no. Don’t allow time to think over; we discuss the next steps at the property.
With the qualification complete, I showed them four options and asked them which option was most comfortable. Once they decided on an option, we completed the paperwork and scheduled the work to start the next day.
In a two hour appointment, I spent fifteen minutes talking about the heating and cooling system. The bulk of the time was spent building rapport, establishing agreement on the next steps, and discovering the compelling reason to spend money. In this case, it was the pain caused by a faulty HVAC system.
What’s the bottom line?
Demonstrate a sincere interest in other people and their lives. Work hard to find some common ground and use it to build rapport and relationships. The real challenge is how to respond to those who have no interest in connecting. Remember the story about the president of a company, who played football for the University of Alabama? One has to be willing to walk away and bury the sale. You cannot lose something that you don’t have.