A stranger asks you for money. Do you say yes?
Your best friend asks you for money. Do you say yes, now?
In everyday life, building rapport helps us maintain strong relationships and navigate society. In sales, building rapport can make the difference between losing the deal and winning a loyal customer for life.
This post will answer the question, why is building rapport so important in sales? Then, I’ll give you seven critical do’s and don’ts for building rapport with your prospects and clients.
Why is Building Rapport So Important in Sales?
Let’s lay some groundwork before we get into the weeds here. What does it mean to build rapport? This concept refers to your ability to create friendship and trust with another person.
Rapport-building is vital in sales because it helps create new relationships. The stronger your relationships with prospects and clients, the better your results will be. In some ways, knowing how to build rapport is the crux of the art of selling.
The current sales climate requires this skill more than ever. Sales in every industry is competitive. Prospects have the tools and know-how to research solutions on their own. Simply providing an excellent product or service isn’t enough.
You need to become a trusted advisor who provides consistent value outside the solution.
Building rapport is crucial in today’s sales environment. If you want to level up your skills in rapport-building, you’ve come to the right post. Let’s take a look at seven do’s and don’ts of building rapport in sales.
DON’T: Get personal right off the bat
You might hear the phrase “relationship-building” and immediately think “personal.” After all, what better way to build a relationship than by bonding over common interests, kids the same age, or a shared hometown?
Related Read: Relationship Selling vs Consultative Selling
While that might be a great way to start a new friendship, remember that your relationships with your clients and prospects are, first and foremost, professional. Rather than putting you on the fast track to a close relationship, kicking your conversations off with personal details will likely make the contact believe you will waste their time.
Or, worse—they’ll put you in the “friend zone,” where they’ll talk your ear off about anything and everything except business… and never buy from you.
You also need to ensure you don’t get too personal—or clingy—in the long run. Ensure you aren’t overstaying your welcome by learning to read the room. With practice, you’ll learn to identify when your small talk is holding your prospects back from doing what they need to do in their day.
DO: Build rapport around business conversations
What’s the opposite of getting personal right off the bat? Building rapport around business!
Instead of discussing families, hobbies, or other topics, start by using a business conversation to develop a rapport. Business professionals are used to connecting with other professionals around business.
Talk about the things they care about: market trends, product evolutions, and industry hot topics. This approach will require a little more research on your end, but it will help your prospects recognize your value as a knowledgeable advisor worth connecting with.
By demonstrating that you can talk the talk, you’ll have an easier time positioning yourself as a knowledgeable advisor worth connecting with.
DON’T: Try to build rapport before understanding their culture
Have you ever told a joke at a party and gotten nothing but crickets?
That’s what happens when you try to build rapport without understanding the culture of the community at hand. The funny anecdote that kills in Manhattan might fall completely flat in Birmingham.
If you don’t understand the culture of the company, region, or industry your prospect sits within, you’re not ready to start building rapport with them yet.
A good rule of thumb is to let the prospect dictate the topics and follow their lead. If you walk in their footsteps, you're far less likely to end up with your foot in your mouth
DO: Create value early and often
One of the best ways to build rapport is to create value for your contacts as early in the sales conversation and prove you can help them.
To be fair, creating value isn’t strictly “rapport-building” alone. However, creating value opens the door to additional rapport-building opportunities. After all, if spending time with you always gives the client some insight or value they need to succeed, why wouldn’t they agree to another call or lunch meeting?
DON’T: Only focus on the decision-maker
It’s rare in today’s sales environment to have one sole decision-maker. Even if one person ultimately signs the contract, decisions are largely made by the consensus of multiple members of the prospect’s organization.
As a result, you need to engage and build rapport with each individual whose support you need in the decision-making process.
DO: Engage in small talk after meetings
After an in-person meeting, the worst thing you can do is quickly gather your things and bolt for the door. Instead, hang around after the fact and make yourself available to your contacts. You’re already face-to-face with them! It’s the perfect opportunity to engage in small talk that helps build relationships.
Related Read: How to Make Your First Impression Impressive
DON’T: Stop building rapport after the meeting
Last, don’t stop building rapport after the meeting is done. Even a phone call to update the client opens up an opportunity for a tiny bit of small talk that can make a big difference in the long run.
This follow-through can be the difference between appearing genuine and appearing like you’re faking it. Genuine relationship-building is vital. Most people have an innate understanding of when someone is faking it.
This type of disingenuousness will cause your prospects to immediately distrust you, ultimately doing more harm than good.
Understanding Why Building Rapport is So Important in Sales
Building rapport is critical in this highly competitive sales environment. With economic uncertainty on the horizon and more stakeholders involved in the buying process than ever, building rapport with your prospects is especially vital.
Remember: You don't get all the clients YOU want. You get all of the clients that want YOU.
Keeping these do’s and don’ts in mind will help guide you in building rapport. The most important things to remember are to be prepared, genuine, and consistent.
Following these rules of thumb, you’ll be able to build meaningful relationships with your prospects. But building rapport is only one element of a successful sales process.
Review my other free resources for more information that can help you crush your sales targets this year and beyond. Check out my Cold Calling eBook for tips on approaching cold leads and generating more opportunities.