A few days ago, I purchased from a company that sells personalized vitamin packages.
Now you might be wondering, why did I do this? Why did I buy a month’s worth of vitamins from a company I know very little about?
Well, it’s because my sister told me to.
My sister and I have built years of trust and share many interests. She told me that she’d been taking the vitamins for a couple weeks and saw a lot of improvement in her energy and overall health.
If this was a stranger, I wouldn’t have purchased this product. But because my sister has built rapport with me, I trusted her opinion.
While rapport in the workplace will look different than family relationships, connecting with people is essential if you want to be a great salesperson. Let’s take a look at why rapport is important and how to build it with your customers.
What is rapport?
Rapport is what happens when two people “click.” When you have rapport with someone, you feel comfortable around them. More importantly, you know you can trust them.
Rapport is often built on shared interests, values, and experiences. It’s more of an emotional connection than anything else.
And while it might seem like something that only happens between friends or loved ones, rapport can be established with anyone — it just takes a little effort.
Why is rapport important in sales?
Rapport is important in sales for the same reason it’s important in any human interaction: it builds stronger relationships. And when you have a good relationship with someone, they’re more likely to do business with you.
Social seller Jill Rowley sums it up well in her article about building trust in sales. “People buy from people they know, they like, they trust.”
People choose who they trust and who they like based on who their friends trust and like. You can build rapport with one person, and without even trying, you’ll have a sale from someone you’ve never met.
Want to earn someone’s trust? Earn the trust and confidence of their friends and associates. This is why social selling works so well; by interacting publicly with other trusted sources, you become a trusted source.
Of course, rapport isn’t just about being friends with your prospects. It’s also about understanding their needs or concerns and tailoring your sales pitch to match.
For example, suppose you’re selling a new car. You’ll need to find out what kind of car your prospect is interested in, their budget, and their concerns about buying a new car. How will the car you’re selling address those concerns and align with their needs?
Once you’ve asked and answered these questions, only then can you give them the information they need to make a decision.
Without rapport, you’re just another stranger trying to sell something. With rapport, you’re a trusted advisor who can help customers find the perfect solution.
How to build rapport with customers
Now that you have a solid understanding of rapport and its importance in sales, let’s look at some tips for building authentic customer connections.
Find common ground
One of the most rewarding parts of working in sales is meeting and connecting with new people. Take the opportunity to build genuine connections whenever you get the chance.
Before jumping straight into a sales pitch, it’s important to engage in friendly conversation with the customer and find common ground. Finding relatable topics of conversation jumpstarts the process of building trust.
A simple way to engage customers is to ask about their interests. What do they do for work? What do they like to do in their free time? Do they have pets? What music, sports teams, books, etc., do they like?
It might seem like small talk on the surface, but this will help you better understand who they are and what they value. Plus, it helps you relate to them more personally if you share common interests.
Bonus: the customer will see that you’re invested in understanding them. They might have an easier time trusting you and feel less pressured during the sales pitch.
Genuine connection requires authenticity, honesty, and straightforwardness. Customers can tell when salespeople are faking relationships to make more sales; this is where the industry gets a bad rap.
Be genuine in every interaction, whether it leads to a sale or not.
Just as you take the opportunity to learn about your customer, allow your customer to learn more about you. Be yourself and show your personality. If you’re funny, slip in a couple of (appropriate) jokes. Or, share some of your interests and passions.
You don’t have to share your whole life story. In fact, it’s just as important to know when NOT to speak up and share.
For example, a previous coworker knocked on doors and approached a situation where he conversed without oversharing.
This was during the presidential election when everybody was hot and heavy about their political views.
He approached a house with signs supporting a different party than his own and knocked. The interaction was normal at first, but then the customer brought up politics.
“This election is crazy, huh?”
My coworker responded, “Yeah, it is. People are really using their voices this time and standing up for what they believe in.”
The man sighed. “Yeah, I don’t really agree with many of them.”
My coworker used his better judgment at this moment to redirect the conversation and avoid any conflict.
“The great part about America is that we’re all free to have our own opinions. I respect everyone for being passionate and loyal to what they stand for.”
The man didn’t really know what to say after that. He nodded at the comment and changed the subject back to business.
My coworker approached several houses with lawn signs opposite of his political views. He told me he would never mention his political party because if it didn’t align with the customer’s, they might deem him untrustworthy.
The key to this interaction is that he didn’t deceive the customer into believing he was voting the same as him. The last thing he wanted to do was pretend to be someone he wasn’t just to make a sale. He shared his honest feelings about the election and left his own views out of it.
Take the time to build rapport as honestly as possible—you’ll find that your relationships are much more rewarding.
Listening is an essential skill for anyone who wants to succeed in business—especially in sales.
It’s not enough to hear what the customer is saying—you also need to understand and interpret the meaning. This means giving the customer your full attention, noticing the tone of voice and body language, and removing any distractions (such as your phone or a computer screen).
By doing this, you can focus on what the customer is trying to say and be in a better position to help them.
I’ve had a lot of experience with sales calls, and a few have stood out to me in particular.
One time, I called an older lady and expected to do my usual introduction, but that’s not what happened.
I started to say hello, but the lady snapped before I could even get the word out.
“I don’t want anything you’re selling!”
It took me aback at first, but I had to keep my composure and remember that there was a person behind this voice. I knew I had to adapt what I was originally going to say.
“I’m sorry for calling at an inconvenient time. I know how frustrating that is when you’re already having a busy day. I just wanted to give you a call to check in. How is your day going?”
Her tone changed. She was just as surprised as I was when she first answered the phone.
“Well, I actually haven’t had the best day today. I’m getting ready to visit my kids and grandkids this weekend, and my flight was canceled. I’ve been on the phone all day trying to get a new flight or even a refund, but nobody is being helpful.”
After actively listening to her story, I understood why she was stressed and didn’t want to take my call. I sympathized with her.
“I’m so sorry. It’s frustrating being on the phone all day and not finding any help. I’ve been there. I don’t want to keep you on the phone anymore today, but is it okay if I give you a call another time to discuss our product with you?”
I could sense her relief, knowing I wouldn’t continue selling to her. “Thank you for understanding. Yes, I will be visiting family for the next three weeks, but you can call anytime after that, and I’ll have time to speak with you.”
Sometimes sales is about being a human first and a salesperson second. It’s crucial to listen to the other person and take time to ask how they’re doing. You’ll be more inclined to build rapport and create a lasting connection by showing that you’re engaged in the conversation.
In sales, the follow-up is just as important as the initial interaction with the customer.
Building rapport isn’t a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing process. Following up keeps that connection intact and allows you to help the customer through every stage of their purchasing process.
Here are a few more reasons why following up is beneficial.
It shows that you care about the customer and their experience with your product or service.
It helps you build a relationship with them and get feedback for improvement.
It allows you to upsell or cross-sell them on other products or services they may be interested in.
It shows them that you’re a stand-up company that prioritizes connection and takes obligations seriously.
There are many ways you can follow up with a customer. Which one(s) you use will depend on the company, your personality, and your customer. Below are just a few examples:
Send a handwritten thank-you note: A simple thank-you note goes a long way in showing your appreciation for a customer’s business.
Make a phone call: In today’s age of emails and text messages, a personal phone call can really stand out.
Send a personalized email: Thank them for their time and/or purchase. Let them know you would like to keep the line of communication open should they need help in the future.
Building rapport will take you from good to great
The bottom line is that building rapport is key to closing deals and making sales. You may be able to fake it for a little while, but if you want to make genuine connections with your customers and close more sales, take the time to get to know them. Listen to them. Be human first.
Knowing that you can make even the smallest difference in someone’s life will make your career all the more rewarding.