It used to be customary that the salesperson to try to connect and develop rapport with a prospective client before tackling the business agenda they suggested when they scheduled the meeting. The salesperson would sit down in the prospective client’s office and look for something they had in common. They’d ask about the pictures on the client’s desk, especially pictures of their children. Or they would look for signs about what their prospective clients interests were, including things like where they went to college, what their hobbies are, or what kind of car they drive.
Now, because everyone has more work to do in less time, and because so many companies are operating lean, most prospective clients aren’t willing to suffer through the rapport-building exercise first. Instead, they’re more interested in a business conversation and agenda.
Value Creation First
If you cannot create commercial, economic, or strategic value during a sales call, you are unlikely to get the opportunity to develop a relationship with the prospective client. They are not going to waste time allowing you to build rapport and invest in a relationship with someone who cannot help them produce better results.
By putting the business agenda first, and you prove yourself as a professional. When you ask your prospective client for a meeting, you suggested that you could help them produce better business results, not find a personal ground that would allow you to attempt to build rapport and develop a relationship. The relationship your prospective client is interested in developing is a commercial relationship. A commercial relationship does not preclude a friendship, but it does require create value for the prospective client as it pertains to their business.
The greater the value you create in a commercial sense, the more likely you are to have the opportunity to develop the rapport and relationship that allows you to create a deeper preference to work with you. This is the normal course today, with the commercial and economic value creation happening first, and the reporting relationship building happening later, only because no one wants to invest in a relationship with someone with whom they are not intending to do business with.
This is a generalization. All generalizations are lies, including this one. There are some people in some places where moving to the business agenda without the rapport-building and relationship building formalities is a mistake. Most of the time in sales you are not working in situations where there is black or white approaches. You have to be comfortable working in the gray.