One of the most essential skills salespeople must have is the ability to build a rapport with their clients. You can have an excellent product and a persuasive and researched pitch, but none of those elements will matter if you or your client do not have a connection with each other. If you want to excel at building rapport, you must have a clear rapport definition in mind. You must also develop your communication skills to bond with different clients. Learn more about rapport and bonding with clients by following the techniques below.
Before you even start thinking about approaching clients, you should understand what rapport means in a broader sense, and specifically within the field of business. For instance, the Oxford English dictionary defines rapport as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.” Meanwhile, the Business Dictionary gives rapport the definition of “a positive or close relationship between people that often involves mutual trust, understanding and attention.”
Both definitions emphasize rapport as a close relationship. A salesperson must establish a connection with the client strong enough for the client to consider it “close”. The relationship should also be positive, harmonious, and facilitate the transfer of ideas. The second definition is slightly different in that it lists the components of rapport: the establishment of trust, understanding, and attention between the two parties.
The fact that the business-oriented definition does not differ much from the general definition also means that building rapport is not just a specific business technique, but a broader one that people use to meet their goals and improve their lives daily. Approaching the construction of rapport with a client the same way you would to have a pleasant, constructive conversation with any person can help put you at ease. If you are relaxed, you can share that feeling with the client, and that goes a long way when building rapport.
Mirroring Your Client
A subtle technique that creates a bond with your client fast is analyzing their body language and imitating it occasionally. Mirroring builds a subconscious connection with the person you are talking to, and when done correctly, is proven to achieve sales increases and positive evaluations. Anyone can accomplish mirroring through three steps:
- Face your client and show attentiveness to their conversation via eye contact and nodding.
- Match the client’s speaking volume and pace.
- Identify the client’s punctuating action when making a point and imitate it the next time they perform it.
Remember to practice mirroring in moderation. Repeating these steps frequently can become obvious, make the customer uncomfortable, and break the connection instead of building it.
Asking Interesting Questions
One of the simplest methods a salesperson can use to build a rapport with clients is to learn more information about them by asking questions. When a salesperson shows interest in a client by asking questions, it shows the client they can trust the salesperson. This allows the salesperson to gather more information about the client to customize their sales platform, and keeps the client engaged throughout the process. Not every question is effective, however, so you should craft a rapport-building question carefully.
An effective question must consider the following aspects in order to build a genuine connection with the other person:
- The question should apply specifically to the client you are seeing and the situation around both of you. Observe the person’s actions, clothing, mannerisms, and other specific details to build questions from.
- Catching a person off-guard by asking them a nontraditional question raises their interest and keeps them engaged in the conversation.
- At the same time, make sure that the question is not invasive or does not make the client uncomfortable.
Keep these elements in mind when coming up with the questions, and you can build rapport with a client and establish trust and understanding while also keeping their attention. A small sample of some of the best questions to ask the other person include:
- What’s something most people don’t realize about [client’s city/state]?
- Have you always wanted to work in [client’s field]?
- What was your favorite class you ever took at college?
- Are you subscribed to any newsletters or blogs about [topic, client’s industry]?
- I noticed that your office is in [city neighborhood]. Do you like to go out to [local restaurant] to eat?
- You seem like a busy person? Do you use any apps to keep organized? I am considering using them, so I’d appreciate some recommendations.
Asking questions that you can specialize to the client and are somewhat specific keeps conversation interesting.
A salesperson must understand the client’s personality, needs, and wants in order to give their sales approach a direction. Understanding the client also helps establish a connection, as the client will feel less isolated and better about themselves. Using empathetic statements is an effective way of mirroring the person’s verbal messages, physical status, and emotions without parroting and putting off the customer.
You can build a simple empathetic statement by starting with “So, you…” followed by a small assumption about their words or their actions. Even if those assumptions are not entirely accurate, these statements demonstrate you are paying attention to the client’s actions and you are seeking to understand their feelings.
Some specific empathetic statements further develop a connection while also suggesting an action to a client.
- Empathetic presumptive. This empathetic statement presents a presumption around a fact about the client but allows the client to interpret the fact. Whether the assumption is correct or not, the client can provide additional information that the salesperson can use to guide the conversation and dig deeper into what the client wants. For instance, if a client is looking around, the salesperson can ask, “So, you’re looking for [product].” The customer can confirm or deny it, and clarify the assumption.
- Empathetic conditional. This statement keeps the focus on the client but adds specific circumstances where the client would decide. To follow on the previous example, after making an empathetic presumptive, if the client says they are looking for a product, but does not know if they can afford it, the salesperson can state, “So, you’d buy [product] if it was more affordable.” This allows the seller to identify with the customer’s specific issue and guide them towards a specific solution.
Using empathetic statements, you can get an understanding of the client’s goals and issues in reaching those goals without having to say much, and then you can help your client in a personal manner.
Listening to the Client
Gauging your client’s needs is important when understanding them, but sometimes, it is just as important to sit back and listen. If you establish a mutual interest or if the conversation takes a turn where the other person talks constantly about a hobby, a story, a problem, or any other topic, then simply listen. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the other person and how you can sell to them. In addition, the client will appreciate your consideration and interest, and when you discuss sales, they are more willing to return the favor and listen to you.
Another technique in presenting yourself as an ideal person to build a rapport with is establishing trust. Maintaining connections and making sales is easier if the customer believes you are reliable and dependable. There are a few steps you can take to establish trust in your client:
- Respect the client’s time. Always arrive early when meeting with the client and never try to stop them from doing something else.
- Sell only a realistic solution. Be honest about what you can offer to the client, and let the client make the decision.
- Show respect towards the competition. In case the competition ever comes up in conversation, show respect and avoid trash talk. The customer will see you as mature and professional.
- Practice authenticity. Rather than relying on programmed pitches or slogans, lead with stories or humor. This step makes you appear sincere, honest, and approachable.
- When in doubt, offer referrals. In the rare case you cannot help your client in any way, do not hesitate to refer the customer to other qualified people who can do the task. This shows the client that you care about their wellbeing, not just their business.
- Deliver on your promises. If you offer a realistic promise and the client takes you on it, make sure to deliver.
Keeping the Client’s Attention
Another important element required when building a rapport is keeping the customer’s attention. No matter how much you work to keep the conversation interesting and engaging, distractions will always manifest and hinder your communication efforts. These tips should help you keep your conversation with the customer lively, while also keeping your sale on focus.
- Keep them involved with questions, listening to them, or filling in forms
- Make your main point as soon as possible
- Change the topic, pace, or emotion every 10 minutes to keep the conversation interesting
- Use humor to ease them between points
- Summarize your points occasionally to keep your focus
Take the Next Step in Building Rapport
The development of communication skills to bond with others is essential in everyday life and relationships. Now that you have a stronger sense of how to build a rapport with clients, you should take your knowledge to the next level and consider corporate sales training. The corporate sales training program at Shapiro Negotiations focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of salespeople. While the program works as a standalone sales process, it can also integrate into your existing sales skillset, giving it a boost. Sign up today to optimize your sales.