Building rapport is an essential part of selling. It’s not just about warming someone up before a sales pitch, but actually the ground that supports any good relationship. If you don’t have a working rapport with someone, you won’t be able to understand or influence him.
Everyone has preferences and biases. Most of the time we feel closer to others who are more like us. In establishing solid business relationships – or any kind of relationship for that matter – we need to connect harmoniously, with both intellect and emotions. Here are 4 key ingredients to cultivate rapport:
First Impressions Count
How you look and greet people impacts they way they feel about you. Maybe that’s obvious but it shouldn’t be overlooked. First off, try to dress like the people you want to influence. If you’re meeting with a dispatcher on the loading dock casual dress is in order. If you’re meeting with executives in the C suite more formal attire is probably what you want.
Drop any preconceptions about the person you’re meeting, relax and radiate a warm feeling. Think of her as your guest (even if you’re in her territory). Show her you’re glad you’re both there, call her by her name, offer a welcoming smile, take the attitude you want her to be comfortable and that you’re both going to appreciate the time together. Be open, curious, and interested.
Find Common Ground
Good rapport develops from “real talk”, not “small talk”. We all like to talk about things that interest us, especially ourselves. So look for things you might have in common – places you’ve traveled, kids, grandkids, books, movies, food, sports, adventures. Finding those shared experiences should make both of you resonate with pleasure. You might want to share a quick story about some mutual interest.
Listen carefully and show that you’ve heard
When you give your undivided attention to someone you tune in to understand not only their words but their motives and feelings. There’s a gut-level connection.
Listen actively by restating in your own words what the other person has said. That shows them you’ve understood. A speaker who senses he’s been heard feels more valued, more confident, and more warmly towards the listener.
Strive For Harmony and Watch Out for Disagreements
Watch out for points of disagreement that might corrupt your efforts to establish rapport. Even an innocent remark can trigger negative reactions.
A friend who runs a Bed & Breakfast made a casual comment to a guest from Iowa that she always remembered Iowans being overweight. Not surprisingly, the guest, who herself was slim, found that insulting and took her business elsewhere.
Disagreements over things people believe in can be harmful to any relationship. We identify with our beliefs. That’s who we feel we are – a hunter, an enlightened capitalist, an antique car enthusiast. Dissing someone’s identity makes them defensive and angry.
The heart of rapport is the empathy we feel relating openly with others. We close more sales and have more enduring relationships when we connect more deeply.