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In sales, it helps to be known, liked, and trusted. Anyone who argues against the idea that salespeople no longer need to be liked or that relationships don’t matter has spent little time studying human psychology. More still, those who believe they need not be liked because they can address their ideal customers’ pain points are willfully oblivious that there are plenty of B2B salespeople who are likable and also address their client's needs.

These questions are the keys to building rapport with your B2B customers:

  1. In B2B sales, you should be known. This begs the question, "What are you known for?"
  2. You also need to be liked, so ask yourself "Why does a decision maker like you?
  3. Finally, you need to be trusted, which raises the question "What is your client trusting you with?'

Weak Rapport-Building Sales Strategies

The B2B salesperson who enters the client's office and starts the conversation by trying to warm up their prospective client is often attempting to make a personal connection. One reason salespeople use this weak sales strategy is to make themselves feel comfortable in a first meeting with a stranger. The second reason is that they hope the client will like them enough to buy from them.

A lot of things have changed in B2B sales and B2B buying in the 21st century. In the 20th century, a salesperson might have asked a contact about the picture of their children, trying to build trust by finding something in common. Today, these older customs are weaker than ever for several reasons. First, everything moves at a faster pace, including your contact's patience. Second, your contact agreed to a business meeting, not to make a new friend.

A Few Exceptions to Weak Rapport

It's not that you can't make a personal relationship by getting to know your clients better. Instead, it's better to handle the business conversation before you start a personal one. If your contact is open to that conversation after the meeting, there is no reason not to get to know your client better.

There are also geographic customs with rapport. In the Northeast corridor, between Washington, DC, and Boston, rapport building at the start of the sales call will frustrate contacts, who tend to have little patience. But the opposite is true in other parts of the United States and other parts of the world. In some places, it is considered rude to skip over any personal conversation before conducting business. In contexts where business moves at a slower pace or decision-makers prefer to get to know people personally, you may have to start by building rapport. Things move faster in some regions, so it’s important to tailor the pace of the conversation to meet your contacts’ expectations.

Most B2B salespeople are comfortable building rapport, but many are uncomfortable with building the business rapport that closes deals. This type of rapport is distinctly different.


The New B2B Sales Rapport

It’s time to answer the questions posed at the beginning of this article. It's important that, as a sales rep, your B2B sales process has you building the right type of rapport with decision-makers and the stakeholders who engage in the sales conversation. When you made a cold call and set a meeting, you promised to help your contact with a conversation about improving their results.

The rapport you need to create in the first meeting is business rapport. The reason so many salespeople are One-Down is because they don't establish themselves as experts and authorities. When this is true, a salesperson doesn't feel like a peer. How you open a first meeting sets the direction of the conversation. It gives people a sense of how helpful you might be and how much you understand your audience.

Being Known

Let's look at the first element of rapport, which addresses the question "What do you want to be known for?" By opening the sales conversation by providing an executive briefing, you establish yourself as a person who understands what forces cause companies to fail to produce the results they need. By proving you have knowledge and experience that would help your contacts improve their results, you've started the B2B sales cycle with an advantage over your competitors. Your communication skills in handling this first conversation with your qualified lead are what position you to acquire a second meeting. You want to be known for your insight, perspective, and experience.

Being Liked

You want to be liked for the right reason. It's great that you are a nice person, charming even. You may even be delightful. When your contact connects with you, you want to be liked for your ability to create value in the sales conversation. Being liked in the B2B sales context means that you provide your buyers with the sales experience they need to move forward and improve their business results.

You want to be liked for your ability to help your contacts deal with the challenges of improving their results. Being likable without creating business rapport will cause your contacts to engage with another salesperson who can provide greater help.

Being Trusted

When a decision-maker buys from you, they are trusting you to improve their results, otherwise, they will lose face when they fail. The rapport you need includes the trust that allows your client to buy your products or services and feel confident that they will improve their results. The best personal conversation will not be enough to get them to trust you with their business and their future. You need to build the rapport that positions you as the person they trust with their business and their personal future, which is connected to their professional success.

After the Sales Call

B2B sales teams need to know that if a contact is hanging around after a first meeting, you have an opportunity to have a personal conversation and get to know each other. In the fast-paced world we live in now, you'll find that the personal conversation comes later in the conversation. Want help? Click here.

Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on March 5, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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