8 Steps for Building Instant Customer Rapport
Building rapport and creating connections with customers are still a key focus in today’s selling environment. It can happen in an instant. You can also blow it right at “Hi, my name is …”—and once it’s gone, you probably won’t get another chance to forge a bond. So just how do you build instant rapport with customers? We’ve broken it down to the following eight steps.
- Know What Type of Customer You Are Meeting With In order to create a connection with your customer at the early stages and throughout the sales process, it’s important to get to know their style and how they like to be communicated with. Some customers may love chit-chat, while others are all about facts and data. Some may be more of a visionary while some get right down to business. The better you understand their style and how to flex to it, the easier and stronger a connection you can create.
- Use Your Resources The worldwide web may be full of a lot of useless data—like that all the swans in England are the property of the queen; that flies jump backwards during takeoff; that 11% of the global population is left-handed. Yet when it comes to finding out about prospects, the Tower of Babel that’s the internet comes in very handy, often providing you with insights into who your prospect is. Invest a bit of time researching who you’re going to be meeting with. Look at their Twitter account or public Facebook page for clues as to their hobbies and interests. Link-in with them. While on their Linkedin page, note where they worked previously, their alma mater, any articles they’ve posted, etc., or any other relevant info you might be able to refer to during your meeting. Is there a common denominator, such as a company you both worked for at some point?
- Consider your Target All people are created equal, but not all customers are the same. Train yourself to recognize the Mr. or Ms. Right prospect, and then adapt your style and approach to meet her/his needs. After you’ve moved your dream prospect into your pipeline, be a trusted advisor and accommodate their particular issues and ways of doing things.
- Listening can Make All the Difference News flash! This just in: Sales folks are talkers. In fact, we often like to be “on.” However, much as you might enjoy the “you show,” park your healthy ego and let the customer talk. If you allow them the room to explain in detail the dilemmas they’re facing, you’ll instill a sense of trust in them. Helpful person that you are, you might find yourself wanting to jump in and interrupt with a problem-solving insight. Hey! Don’t. Instead, take notes. When it’s appropriate for you to speak, you’ll buy a lot of first-impression points by repeating back to them what they’ve highlighted as their business challenges. Not only will they know you’ve been actively listening, you will learn more because you have been actively listening.
- Use their Names During the conversation, use the customer’s name often. People like to hear their own name spoken back to them. It creates instant rapport, a sense of security, and a feeling of individuality.
- Active Listening is Key Unless your in-box is on fire, don’t rush the customer. And don’t tune them out. You may have been around the sales block a couple of times and have put your foot in a thousand doors, but don’t put it in your mouth where the prospect is concerned. Park your assumptions in the back parking lot, by your ego; allow the customer to get all their thoughts out; and pay close attention to their words. When you’re trying to build rapport and truly connect with a customer, there’s a real danger in coming off as impatient: If the customer doesn’t feel that you have the time, attention span, or inclination to stick with them to the conclusion of what they’re saying, they’ll lose confidence in your ability to know what it is they truly need and want over the broader “conversation,” i.e., a working relationship with them.
- Positivity Creates Bonds Whether meeting with a prospect in person or over the phone, remember to smile. Positivity is your friend—it will create a bond between you and the customer. People don’t want to do business when negativity is in the picture. They will especially get their backs up when someone is rude, or even just perceived to be rude. So play nice, be friendly, and flash your pearly whites.
- Consider the Wrap-Up Toward the end of the meeting, make certain to ask if there is anything further you can do for the customer. Also, ensure that everything that needed covering has been checked off the list. Finally, ensure that next steps are clearly mapped and understood by everyone.
In sales, it’s almost always the case that you have only one chance to make a connection with a customer. Think of it as skydiving, with the customer as the plane and the rapport as the parachute: If the chute fails to open, you may have a back-up chute, but you will not get another chance to jump from that particular plane. Remember, before your bonding experience—even after that sometimes—the customer has no loyalty to you. That’s something you need to earn. You begin to earn it by making a connection.