Rapport-building Increases Sales

  • Article by: BARBARA K. MEDNICK , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: January 22, 2007 - 8:30 AM

Since not all customers and prospects are alike, you need to take a different type of approach depending on personality and behavioral style, according to local experts.

One size does not fit all. This is especially true when it comes to building rapport with customers and prospects. Since not all customers and prospects are alike, you need to take a different type of approach depending on personality and behavioral style, according to local experts.

"It's not how much you know, it's the people you know that will help you succeed," To succeed in sales, professionals need to know the right people and develop rapport with them. This can be done by actively listening, understanding the primary thinking and perspective of the customer or prospect, and knowing how they prefer to give and receive information.

Definition Of Rapport

What does rapport really mean? "The French originated the word 'rapport' and most often use it in the phrase 'en rapport avec,' which means to be in connection with someone," explains Regina Barr, a management consultant, speaker and president of Red Ladder, Inc. "It's not how much you know, it's the people you know that will help you succeed," says Bev Bachel, a communications consultant, writer and president of Idea Girls. "Knowledge is essential, but knowing the right people and developing good rapport with them is the key to success."

Key Challenges

A key challenge today is breaking through the clutter to reach your customers and prospects. "Most are faced with information overload - much more than 10 or 15 years ago. The key to standing out is, be respectful," says Bachel.

E-mail and cell phone access also have changed the dynamics of the sales process, which may at times make it more challenging to build rapport, explains Barr. "The Internet has leveled the playing field by providing easy access to information and lots of choices. Therefore, building rapport and making a fast connection with customers or prospects is critical. So if you don't build rapport, they can quickly move to the next salesperson," says Barr.

Successful Rapport-Building Techniques

"Get into the world of the other person - mirror their actions and the way they speak. You'll find it easier to communicate," advises Bachel. "But, be elegant; your behavior should go unnoticed."

Barr offers a similar perspective.

"I think the most effective techniques are those that take your sales style and your customer or prospect buying style into account. It's your job to find a way to blend these styles and put your customer or prospect at ease," she explains.

Bachel recommends these additional techniques:

• Listen instead of talking: Too many professionals monopolize the time they have in front of prospective clients. "Instead of talking, listen. If you're not spending 70 percent of your time listening, you're doing too much talking," says Bachel.

• Notice how others handle information: Do they like details or the big picture?

• Match the words used to reflect their primary thinking pattern: "This can make a dramatic difference in your ability to motivate and persuade. For example, phrases like 'It looks good to me,' or 'It sounds good to me,' or 'It feels good to me', mean essentially the same thing, but indicate whether a person's mental processes are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic/feeling, respectively," she says.


Barbara K. Mednick is a Twin Cities marketing PR/communications consultant and freelance writer.
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