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How to Build an Initial Rapport with your Prospect.

One of the most difficult things to do in sales is to be able to build an initial rapport with the prospect that you're trying to do business with.


This is especially difficult to do if you are engaging on the phone or if you have not met the person before and we all know that building an initial rapport is vital to get the sale.

I've certainly been there and I'm sure you have where you are trying to build that personal connection either on the phone or face to face. We all know, that even in the world of social media, customer reviews, online brochures and other marketing materials, people still want to buy from other people. We as humans still crave an interaction with someone that we want to work with, someone that we can understand, someone that we can believe and put our trust in.


The key thing for anyone working in sales is to look at how you can build an initial rapport with a prospect. Here are 10 ideas you can use to ensure you build a great initial rapport:

1: Be genuine and start the meeting or the call that you have with them by smiling.



If you're a genuine person that really is driven to help your prospect solve a problem and is positive about what you do then approach the initial meeting in that way. A smile always makes a big difference when it comes to interacting with other people.

Of course, there are some people who will want to not reciprocate the gesture, but that's okay. Just because someone else doesn't smile at you, doesn't mean that you can't smile and be positive with them and be genuine about who you are and what you're trying to do. Smiling not only helps you feel good but it gives you a far better chance of getting your prospect on your side.


2. Try and identify the type of person they are and react accordingly.



Is the person that you're speaking with a fast and frantic executive that doesn’t have much time to get things done, or are they a slow steady methodical person?

One of the key ways to build an initial rapport is to ensure that your actions match or resonate with the prospect. For example, going slow and very steady with someone that's fast and frantic is probably going to mean you're going to struggle to build a relationship. I have sat in meetings where a prospect is keen to get to the core part of the discussion and yet the sales person is methodically going through their pitch and I could see the frustration building up. Eventually the prospect interrupted and said ‘what is it that you can do for me’ and when the salesman couldn’t respond effectively the conversation ended there and then. Such a shame as the prospect needed the solution on offer but identifying the type of person that you're engaging and responding accordingly is vital if you're to build initial rapport.

If you're not a fast and frantic salesperson and you engage with someone who does act in this way then you can't be something that you're not but you can try and react and respond to the way in which they behave. Maybe indicate that you are happy to answer any questions they have now or suggest that even though they want the meat in the sandwich, your approach is to ensure that you see if there is a fit between both companies and you can’t do this without understanding more about them. Try and be concise with your answers and really listen to the points raised and be direct with your responses.



Identify the person and how they operate and try to adjust your behaviour accordingly.




3: Try and get them to laugh!



There's nothing better to build initial rapport with someone than to get them laughing! Of course you have to be careful that what you say is not inappropriate but making someone laugh and relax is going to be a big help in getting them to like you. Is there a way you can make fun of yourself with a story of something that's happened to you that can make them laugh? Is there a situation you've seen or something that's happened that you relate to them which you know most people would find funny? I once outlined how I had tripped up a flight of stairs carrying a cup of coffee in the middle of a crowded tube station and the person I was meeting loved the story as it had happened to them as well! She laughed and we talked about how embarrassed we both felt and that enabled us to build a strong relationship from the start and I have no doubt that I won the business as I had built rapport early. Laughing relaxes the senses and puts people more at ease, which is going to enable you to build a better relationship with them.




4: Be very courteous about how you interact with the prospect.




My mother always told me that manners cost nothing and being courteous and polite is a key way to build initial rapport. If you're engaging with someone on the phone, then be courteous and respect the time they are giving you. "I do appreciate you're a busy person Paul, but I wanted to hear more about some of the challenges you're facing and what would help you to get these resolved?"

If you are meeting with someone face to face then do the simple things such as, letting them go through the door first or offer them a chair before you look to sit down. Being courteous and polite shows that you are considerate of other people and helps the prospect to see that you put others ahead of yourself which is vital if you want to get a sale. It helps to show the prospect that you're not selfish and that you're focusing on them first and not yourself, will help build the rapport with them.


5: Make sure that you look smart and smell good.



Looking smart and smelling good are key factors regardless of whether you sell face to face or via the phone. We all know the feeling when we put on a shirt or dress that is one of our favourites and which makes us look smart. We feel amazing and confident and this gives off a positive vibe to your prospect which helps them see you take care in who you are. People want to build relationships with other successful people and in sales, your initial impression is key to building rapport. If you don't feel good and don't smell good, then the chances are, you're not going to feel good when you're interacting with your prospect and these small doubts can be the decisive points when you are up against strong competition.

A prospect is going to look initially at you, what you're wearing and what you smell like, and make a decision on whether you're someone that they want to work with. Can you really imagine a prospect wanting to work with you if you have bad breath or a nasty bodily odour? What about if your shirt is stained and your shoes dirty? Do you think your prospect wants to deal with someone that looks like a mess?

The prospect's going to think, maybe they will care about me as a customer the same as they care about their own appearance and it could be the factor which puts them off you even if the service you offer is great. The way you appear can either build a solid impression or it will lead to doubts in their mind. My advice is to look smart and smell good and make sure you give your prospect a great impression of who you are.




6: Be careful about the body language you use.



If you are meeting with a prospect face to face then be careful about the body language that you use. Try not to invade the space of the prospect or cross your arms and look defensive in your approach. The way you act in meetings with a prospect has a big bearing on their feelings towards you. I once knew a salesman who would sit very close to a prospect because he struggled to hear what they were saying but many people found having someone sit within a few inches from them was quite disconcerting. There are times in every meeting where we may hear answers or comments that we don’t agree with or which are even rude about us but it’s vital that we don’t use aggressive or negative body language which can make issues worse.

Take the comments on board and make sure that you reflect and listen to what the prospect is saying and be open with your body language and show that you are taking on board the comments in the right way. Sometimes, prospects just need to vent about a situation or previous experience they have had with your company or with another sales person and once they have done this, they can then warm to you if you have used the right body language with them.

Be careful not to react to a situation that occurs. Take it in your stride and show versatility which is a key skill to build as a sales person. Have a positive mindset and body language with palms and arms open and lean forward to show you are actively listening to what the prospect has to say. Use your body language to really show you're keen to identify the prospect's pain points and how you're there to help them and it will help build a strong initial rapport.




7: Do some research and try to find a common link before you call.



One great way to build initial rapport is to know a bit about the prospect before you engage with them and find a common link. Maybe you know a little bit about the previous company they worked for or they have a hobby that you like as well?

There are lots of common topics that you may be able to find out about your target prospect and using one of these in the initial discussion helps to generate an initial rapport. Common links are a great way to start conversations and to get the prospect feeling relaxed and comfortable in your presence.

I am always amazed how many salespeople don't do the simple research on the people they are meeting and this lack of preparation can prevent you from building the initial rapport you want with your prospect. For example, I met with someone the other day and I knew the company she had worked with previously was a company that I'd been involved with. I started the conversation by talking about this and I showed that I knew a bit more about her company and what she'd done, and we therefore had a common link already to start our conversation. It was a key way to build initial rapport which in turn resulted in new business for me.




8: Listen to the prospect and really ask questions about them.



Listening is one of the best skills that anyone in sales can ever have and I mean listening with the intent to listen and not just listening with the intent to reply.

Picture the setting. You can start a meeting by talking incessantly at your prospect or you can introduce yourself and then ask them a question about them and their requirements and needs. Which one do you think helps to build the best rapport with the prospect?


So many salespeople think that the meetings and conversations they have are about them and fail to use their ears as much as their mouth and this is why they struggle to build rapport. Listening is a great way to build affinity and strong relationships with your prospects. In fact I would say it is essential if you want to increase your chances of doing business with them.
Focus your initial meetings and calls with prospects on understanding them. It's not about you, it's about them. Focus on understanding what they do, who they are, ask questions intelligently and try to understand more about the challenges and aspirations that they have, so that you can really focus and see if you are a fit for them. Within the sales meetings and calls that you have you should be talking for around 30 to 35% of the time, and the prospect talking for 65 to 70%. Record your next call with a prospect and time yourself to see what levels you are at! You may get a surprise!

Listen to the prospect and ask questions about them and if you do this it is going to help build a strong rapport with them.




9: Try not to interrupt them.



Sometimes we are so passionate about what we do or how we want to help that we can interrupt a prospect within a conversation and this can affect their impressions about us.

I know that this is always a difficult element to avoid and it is one of the areas I always need to remind myself not to do! I have such passion to help the people that I work with that I sometimes don’t let them finish and as I know how frustrating this is for me when others do it, I know how frustrating it must be for them! Interrupting someone sends negative signs that you're more interested in hearing what you have to say than they are and it is an easy way for the prospect to turn off of you. Listen to them, listen to the natural stage in the conversation where they finish, and then respond, either with another question or with a thought process that can add value to the conversation.

Do this and it will help show them that you really care about what they have to say and that you value every word they use!



10: Empathise with them.



Being able to build an emotional connection and show empathy with someone is the final tip I can give you to build good rapport.

Showing that you can really understand how someone is feeling is a key way in which to get them to like you and be on your side which in turn makes a big difference when it comes to decision time.

If you use words and phrases which show that you empathise with someone and are genuine about the way in which you say it then prospects will respond well to this. Being told that someone has a problem and then responding with a "I'm really sorry to hear that," or, "It must be a very difficult situation for you." Is much more likely to build stronger relationships with the prospect than if you ignore the comment and carry on with the pre-defined pitch or outline that you have. Empathy shows that you care about them as a person and it shows that your interested in trying to help them and not just sell to them, which is what a lot of salespeople do. Show empathy. Show that you care. Show that you really want to understand more about them and their situation and it's going to help build rapport.

So, there are 10 points that you can use to help build rapport with the prospects you have.

Building rapport is a key way in which to get prospects on side so that you can move them through to the next stage of your sales process, or so that you can be in a position to do business with them.

As I said at the start of the blog, people still do business with other people and regardless of what we do in social media marketing or sales, if someone doesn't like you or someone can't relate to you, they're not going to do business with you.

I hope that these 10 tips help you build a stronger rapport with your prospects. If you want further tips on how to get the best results head to my YouTube channel here and you will find ideas and suggestions of how you can engage your prospects, build rapport with them, and do what you need to convert your prospects into customers.

Thanks for reading another of my blogs. Please share with me your comments in the section below, or reach out to me on Twitter @JamesWhiteSales or share via my Facebook page and give me your comments on how you've built rapport with prospects in the past and what's worked for you.

 


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James White
James White

James White is the UK’s leading prospect conversion expert. He understands what it takes to convert leads into real business within the modern digital era and what it takes to achieve business success.