When Jenny began working for ABC Widgets three months ago, she was put through the companyâ€™s sales training program where she was taught three ways to begin a sales meeting with a prospective customer. She was to compliment any visible photos of the prospectâ€™s or customerâ€™s family, mention a local sports team, or make a positive, approving comment about some honour or trophy she spotted in the personâ€™s office.
These methods met with limited success, and as a result, an anemic book of business.
The problem was all of Jennyâ€™s prospects became uneasy when she executed those outdated efforts of rapport building. Not only that,Â JennyÂ became uneasy. Prospects sensed they were being stalked within two or three minutes of the conversation, and they put their guard up. Not surprisingly, the conversations didnâ€™t go well.
These openings werenâ€™t working for Jenny. They told prospects and clients, â€œWatch out! Here comes a salesperson! The â€˜pitchâ€™ is coming any minute now!â€
Investing time to learn about your prospect before â€œpitchingâ€ your product helps build rapport and trust. When you understand your prospects, itâ€™s easier to understand their points of view. Similarly, prospects must have a sense of your sincere interest before they can become comfortable with you and seek your advice.
To engage your prospect in a meaningful conversation and facilitate the process of developing rapport, you should have prepared questions to ask. These should be questions that donâ€™t make the prospect conclude youâ€™re there for one reason and one reason alone: to close the deal, whether the deal makes sense or not.
Here is a model that provides a framework for building quality rapport at the beginning of the meeting:
â— Â Begin the conversation by focusing your questions on the individual. Instead of recycling shallow questions and comments about the prospectâ€™s family photos or fishing accomplishments, consider asking about something more relevant and authentic, such asÂ how he or she got started in the business.
â— Â Next, you expand your questions to focus on the company and the marketplace in which the company operates.
â— Â And then ask questions about the industry before refocusing the discussion on the reason for the meeting.
With relevant and meaningful questions that follow this sequence, you not only build rapport, but you also build credibility. You can easily customize your initial questions with a quick online search. If you do your homework before calling on your prospects, you will know something about them, such as their companies, their markets, their competitors, etc. You can use that knowledge to frame your questions once youâ€™ve introduced yourself and gotten past the â€œsmall talkâ€ phase.
The following are some examples of effective rapport building questions that follow this model:
â€œI understand when you took over the distribution division your first initiative was toâ€¦ How quickly were you able to accomplish that?â€
â€œHas the migration of manufacturing companies into the region changed the way you do business?â€
â€œWhat impact, if any, has the provinceâ€™s new tax incentives for capital investment had on your customers and your business?â€
All prospects and, for that matter, all salespeople are unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to bonding with people and establishing rapport with them.
By freeing herself up to familiarize herself with the person and the organization sheâ€™s meeting with, by giving herself permission to customize her questions to the person and the situation, and by using the three-part model youâ€™ve read about here, Jenny has begun connecting with prospects in a manner that builds mutual trust. And, sheâ€™s improved her closing totals.