No matter how good your product or service is, the reality is your business won’t succeed if you can’t make sales – and to do that, you need to build a strong rapport with customers and clients.
Tom Haupt, the founder of Haupt Consulting, is a performance and business coach and a sales trainer. Having honed his skills for over 40 years in the public and corporate sector, he recently presented a series of workshops on effective sales techniques at the Brisbane Business Hub.
Tom says making sales is all about building rapport – a level of trust, understanding and connection between salesperson and client.
“Building rapport with the person you’d like to make a sale with will supersede almost everything else you’ve learned about how to sell your product or service,” he says.
“People can sense when someone is being insincere or attempting to manipulate them into a sale. Immediately the emotional walls and barriers go up and you’re now behind the eight ball.
“Instead, create a comfortable, relaxed and professional atmosphere where your client feels like they are part of the conversation.”
So, how can you create authentic connections with your clients? Here are Tom’s top tips for building rapport in sales.
Be an active and empathic listener
Communication isn’t a one-way street. That’s why Tom says building rapport isn’t just about what you say – it’s about how you listen.
“To establish rapport, create an instant connection by finding common ground or shared interests, actively listening to the customer’s needs and concerns, and demonstrating empathy and a genuine interest in helping them solve their problems.”
Tom says to be an active listener, be present in the moment, creating a safe space for clients to express themselves. This will help you gain deeper insights into what they need, and allows you to respond in a more targeted and effective manner.
“Be present and eliminate distractions, lock in, and let go of any judgements about what they’re saying,” he says. “You have to start from a blank sheet. And the more they talk, the more you can develop a deeper understanding of the client’s needs, desires and pain points.
“The longer you engage with a potential client, the better you can understand their unique preferences and find solutions to their problems.”
Tailor your communication style
Rapport isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. We all have different ways of perceiving and interacting with the world, which is why Tom says it’s important to identify the personality and behaviour styles of your potential clients to understand how they need to be sold to. Then you can tailor your approach accordingly.
“Whether someone is formal or informal, whether they’re dominant or go with the flow, adapting your communication style to align with theirs will create a more harmonious and productive interaction,” Tom says.
“For example, if you approach a very analytical person with an overly descriptive picture about how great your product or service is, they’ll check out within moments. Instead, present them with data and information. If someone is more formal and dominant, be direct and structured in your approach and get to the point, whereas someone who is more informal, you can be open, casual and share how your product or service can support them and/or their company in making life easier and more effective.
“If you don’t identify the personality styles within the room, and present yourself accordingly, there might be a disconnect and more of a challenge engaging them.”
While there are a multitude of tests that can tell you about someone’s personality style, you won’t have that luxury in a sales situation. Instead, look for cues and signals in the moment.
“There are so many cues that you can look out for,” Tom says, “including tone of voice, tempo of speech, choice of words, body language, how they present themselves, their attire, what their desk and office looks like, and so on.
“Paying close attention to these signals and details will allow you to adjust your approach accordingly to their personality style and establish a stronger rapport quickly and effectively.”
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
If you have a pre-rehearsed pitch that you’ve practised in front of the mirror a hundred times, it can be tempting to simply repeat it verbatim when a sales opportunity presents itself. But Tom says building a genuine rapport requires continuous effort and flexibility on your part.
“It can be easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same sales pitch over and over again like you’re on automatic pilot,” he says.
“While that may feel comfortable for you, you’ll fail to establish a real and genuine connection and it may hinder your chances of a sale. You can become like a hamster on a wheel, where you keep on doing the same thing over and over again and wonder why your sales aren’t increasing and why your company’s not growing.
“You’ve got to do something different, even when it isn’t comfortable, to grow your presentation skills and to grow as a professional. In order to be successful in sales, you’ve got to step outside your comfort zone by taking risks, because that unknown territory is where new possibilities and opportunities exist.”
Know when to fold ‘em
Conventional wisdom tells us that good things come to salespeople who never give up, and who never take no for an answer. But, as a great philosopher once said, you also need to know when to walk away and know when to run.
In this case, that means that if you’re spending invaluable time trying to build rapport with people who simply aren’t buying what you’re selling, your time would probably be better spent elsewhere.
“A lot of people I’ve worked with find it very difficult to know when to walk away,” Tom says. “Tap into your intuition. Sometimes we narrow our focus and we spend all of our time and energy on leads that just aren’t going to pay off, and in the meantime, you’ve missed out on better opportunities.
“That’s why you have to be prepared to walk away from time to time. Your most important asset is your time – so trust yourself and go call and pitch someone new. There’s always another potential client right around the corner!”