“To build a long-term, successful enterprise, when you don’t close a sale, open a relationship.”
– Patricia Fripp, keynote speaker and presentation skills trainer.
Relationships have always been central to a successful business. It is how you get started and stay afloat. It is what you build on.
The problem is that relationships are not easy to develop. It takes time, and hinges on the rapport you establish from your first (and nth) B2B sales call.
Building Rapport in Sales
So, how do you build rapport in sales calls?
First, let’s look at what the word really means. Merriam Webster Dictionary describes rapport as “a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”
From here, we can see the ideals that we need to strive for when talking to a client for the first or nth time:
- You have to be on the same page. (Agreement)
- You should understand each others industry and how a business relationship is mutually beneficial. (Mutual understanding)
- You need to know and understand their business and pain points, and offer possible solutions. (Empathy)
These may seem a lot to compress into a typical B2B sales call, much more for cold calls. But it’s all worth it. Just keep in mind what Bob Burg, referral-based selling guru and co-author of the international bestseller “The Go-Giver,” said: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.”
Build a sales rapport with your prospects, and see where the relationship takes your business. Here are 7 creative tips to building rapport in sales.
Know Who You’re Talking To
Today, it’s easier to get to know the basics about the person you’re going to speak with. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is one of your best tools when you do research prior to your call. You can know a person’s designation, business associations, past jobs, and even interests and likes.
Use what you know to establish a connection. Start your conversation with a clear idea about the other person, particularly when it comes to work.
Instead of a: “Hello, Mr. Jones. I called to ask if you’re the person in charge of buying paper for your company.”
Say this: “Hello, Mr. Jones. I understand that you’re the person in charge of buying paper for your company. I have the best options for a start-up company such as yours.”
With the second option, you establish that you know their needs even before they tell you. You have begun the dialogue by communicating your focus on your prospective client.
Connect With The Other Person, and Make It Personal
Your B2B sales calls should never be strictly about work. The person on the other end of the line has a life outside this; and it usually pays to connect on that level too.
Ask how their day is going. If you called after lunch, ask if they had eaten. Tell them about a great café you know about at your prospect’s location. Talk to them about their families, former college or interests.
You will know what to talk about during the course of your B2B sales call through active listening. Get cues from what’s being said. Or, casually ask them questions that let them know you’re interested.
Perhaps your social media research will give you a glimpse of the other person’s personal life. This is actually a gray area. What you learn online can help you establish a connection. However, you can also come off as a creepy stalker. So, again, listen to the cues and know when to interject with your social media information.
Use Disarming Honesty
Small talk happens in almost all kinds of conversations, even B2B sales calls. There’s nothing wrong with this. But, consider veering away from typical responses every now and then, and try an honest reply.
For instance, to the question “How’s your day going?”
Instead of the usual: “Fine. How’s yours?”
Say: “It’s one of those trying days…. I’m sure you know what I mean.”
Honesty is always appreciated, especially when it comes to sales.
People may default to the notion that salespeople will say and do anything just to close the deal. This is one of the toughest walls you face as a sales professional. Being honest and opening yourself up to the other person is a great way to chip away at this wall.
Humor and Compliments Work
When you’ve got a great sense of humor, tell a joke. Laughter goes a long way in establishing a personal bond with your prospect.
Of course, tread carefully. First of all, the joke should be funny. It should also suit the personality of your prospect. You won’t tell a locker room joke to a feminist, right? So, consider what you know about the other person and then decide on using humor to build rapport.
If you’re unsure, stick with sincere compliments. It could be as simple as complimenting them about their website or brochure. This can even work as your foot in – the story of how you realized that you can have a mutually-beneficial business relationship.
The key is sincerity. People will always sense if you’re faking it. So, resist the temptation and keep it honest.
Get a Yes
The first “yes” can lead to more yeses. This is true in most cases. A positive response to even the most basic question, such as “Can I take a minute of your time to talk about how we can help your company?,” indicates interest. It is an opening that you can move forward from.
You will get some “no’s” along the way, yes. But, keep the conversation positive even when you get a ‘no.’ Remember that it is not just about the present; you are trying to establish a relationship. So, even if your prospect gives your proposal a “no,” turn it to a “yes” by suggesting another call in the near future.
Tell a Story
A story is not just about the story. It is also about the storyteller.
When you tell a story – work-related or not – you are revealing a part of yourself to your prospect. It gives them a glimpse of who you are, what you find interesting and what you value. It’s a great way to establish a personal connection with your listener.
Be sensitive to how they respond, and engage with them. Your story is a talking point. There may be some resistance from your prospect when it comes to veering the conversation towards business. Get them to open up with your story.
Talk About Value First
One surefire way to turn off your prospect is to immediately talk about the price of your product. Sure, it may be the cheapest option in the market. It doesn’t matter. If price was the most important factor in a purchasing decision, then the fashion industry would cease to exist.
Value is always more important than price – and your call, especially the first one, should focus on that.
Know about your prospect’s business, industry and pain points. Then, show them how your solution addresses these concerns. Regardless of how much your product is, as long as your prospect sees its value, you can close the deal.
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