Build rapport with the buyer to close faster. Here’s how. And why.

Have you ever met a complete stranger and you immediately hit it off? The conversation flowed effortlessly and so too the silence. Most probably you have; and no, assuming it was the opposite sex, it wasn’t love at first sight. No. You had just experienced raw, pure, unadulterated rapport. The 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’. The word originates from the French and means “the relationship”. Rapport, therefore, is important to building relationships. So, build rapport with the buyer; it is is an indispensable ingredient to successful selling.

Importance of rapport building

Admittedly, life is such that, such delightful, magical encounters do not happen often enough to be firmly depended upon; in fact, they happen rarely. For this reason, the sales person must culture rapport with a prospect, and, preferably, in the early stages of their encounter. Will the rapport created be perfect? A few times, yes, but most times it’ll be enough to break the ice and allow the droplets of conversation to start trickling. And the latter is precisely what the progressive salesperson aims for. From call centre selling, to face-to-face selling and any manner of selling really. Building rapport is among the reasons why buyers will buy, or not buy, your product.

Rapport-building examples

To build rapport with the buyer, the old school of thought tells us to engage in banter as the opening gambit to a conversation . The topics to choose from are captured in the acronym FORD. This stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams. For example, talk something about the prospect’s dress or office. Statements like, “You look very smart in that suit.” Or, while pointing at the framed picture on the desk or wall, “Those are beautiful kids you have there.” Or, if over the ‘phone, showing empathy with, “You sound like you have a cold, madam. Sorry”, and on and on. The underlying message in this old school of thought is to get the prospect to like the salesperson. And it made sense; after all, unless they do not have a choice, people will buy from people they like.

Build rapport with buyer

Principles of building rapport

That piece of advice about how to build rapport with the buyer was doled out decades ago. It is relevant today? Oh, yes; prospects still have to like the person they are dealing with if they are to buy from them. They are human; and the most basic need of any human being is the desire to be appreciated. However, times have changed. Despite the incredible speed of interconnectedness, people are less warm. Further, because of the ubiquitous interconnectedness, today’s prospects are more knowledgeable, and everything is moving at maddening speed. The new school of thought therefore, has it that the place for idle banter, in itself, is being steadily suffocated.

Skills you need to build rapport with customers

Now then. With this in mind, striking rapport must be done more creatively but still focus on the prospect. The suit and the children are therefore something to chitchat about, not dwell upon, especially if you are at the decision-making stage of, say, a B2B sale. Through questions, seek first to understand before being understood. Meaning, talk, more relevant to the client’s needs and how your service or product can be of assistance will more likely create rapport today than would, dwelling on the new coat of paint, and how bold the colours are. This school of thought avers that once the client’s needs are addressed (that is, once business is out of the way) talk of the weather can then fall in place enroute to the lift; if the prospect is walking you there, that is.

Benefits of rapport building with the buyer

But wait! Before blindly shunning the old (as ineffective to building rapport and relationships), and embracing the new, study your own sales and cultural experiences. Whereas generally the world has moved forward, specifically, there are still prospects who will feel offended that you did not notice the change in their new title, and wanted to know what it means to their professional progress; likewise, there are those even decades ago would have been curt to niceties. Personalities differ. Remain alive to this.

Either way, you must adapt to the situation at hand and still develop rapport without losing sight of the purpose of your visit; change and be flexible as problems arise and priorities shift. Why? Because, as in the opening illustration, when rapport is established, there is an air of honesty, a feeling of peace, safety and freedom with each other. And when selling, movement along the sales cycle is smoother.


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