Building rapport is the holy grail for many sales people. They think that if the relationship is cemented before they try to pitch their product, then they stand a better chance of successful outcomes.
What do most people think ‘rapport is? Most think it’s talking about the weather, some photos they see in office or how last weekend’s sports events went. However, the people we are talking with are busy people. Their mind is on something different…things like how their business is going now, the challenges they face at the moment, the problems they will experience if they don’t solve their current problems, etc, etc.
Am I suggesting you shouldn’t use small talk and just say something like, “Hi Mr Prospect, good to meet you. Now, how many of my product were you looking for?”
Err..not quite! There is a difference between building rapport through small talk and building Effortless rapport through talking their business language.
In other words, don’t think about the small talk as building rapport. It’s just getting the human interaction going. Effortless Rapport is talking shop and finding things in common about the project, work, company news, something about the company etc.
The prospect is only interested in what you can do for them and their business. Rapport in this sense is being on the same business wavelength as they are on. This means creating rapport by identifying business needs and discovering or uncovering challenges their company is going through at the moment.
So, don’t view the small talk as rapport-building. All that does is create a start of the human interaction you are both going to go through.
Think of the rapport-building as the start of the conversation, because it’s at that point when the prospect begins to create awareness of what their needs or wants are. They need someone to work with them who they can see is going to be good for them, someone they can trust and someone who has a real interest in solving their problems.
It would go something like this:
“Mr Prospect, I’ve done my research on your company and I have two or three ideas that I might like to run past you. However, it would be good to make sure I have a clear picture of the current situation, so would it be OK if I asked a few questions to get us started?”
This builds effortless rapport in the beginning by
1) showing the prospect that you have done your homework and are interested in their business,
2) identifying the direction the meeting is going to go, and
3) asking permission to ask questions to help the meeting go forward.
The essence of this is to ensure you don’t think that just because you have spoken about his last fishing trip and how your holiday went, you are now in rapport. Effortless rapport is all about creating that foundation for the business discussion, when you talk about the real reason you’re there…to help their business grow.
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There’s a great strategy in communication that, I promise, will revolutionise the way you gain an understanding and rapport with a prospect. It’s something that I have to practice time and time again, as it doesn’t always come naturally in conversttion; but when it does, it works well and gives you that clarity that so many conversations lack.
The process is called Listen, Pause, Clarify, Validate, and it will simply skyrocket your communication quality and get you closer to your goals than anything else you can try in the sales process.
It flows like this; you really listen to the point the other person is making. Then, you ensure a slight pause to assimilate the meaning of what the person has said. Clarification questions ensure you are on the right lines. Finally, validation strokes the ego and allows you to format your next part of the conversation by earning the right to do so.
Listen: Respectful listening earns respect. Try to listen with the whole body, not just the ears. Make sure you don’t think ahead to answer the person, as you might miss a vital point…you can’t listen to the other person while you’re listening to yourself talking!
Pause: This ensures the person has finished their thought and it also stops you from risking interrupting the other, which can be rude and condescending.
Clarify: Having heard their view, there may be some points that are not 100% clear. Were they being too vague, too generalistic? Did what they say have a double meaning or were some of their words unclear? Could the meaning they gave be misconstrued?
This is the chance for you to determine the real meaning, their meaning. You could ask something like: “When you say you need to get this sorted ‘soon’, what sort of time are you talking about?”
Or “As you say, morale is important is any business. What have you seen in your team that makes you feel morale is so low?”
You’re clarifying the meaning so both you and they are singing from the same song sheet.
Finally, Validation: By validating someone’s position or opinion, you’re telling them they have a right to feel that way. In fact, if you were in the same situation, you’d feel that way too. It may suffice by saying something like, “Yes, many companies tell me the same kind of thing, and I can see it’s a concern of yours”.
You’re showing the other person you are in harmony with them, yours is a listening ear, and you’d like to work with them in going forward and solving it.
So, try the four stages in your next prospect call. Listen fully to a point they make, allow a slight pause by not interrupting or butting in (it gives you a chance to consider what’s been said), clarify any points that aren’t that clear to you so there’s no misunderstanding, then show them you understand (not necessarily agree) with their point by validating how they must feel.
You may find it builds good rapport and helps you to achieve a deeper understanding of their current position and future needs.
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Watching Derren Brown at the theatre a few weeks ago made me realise how little we mere mortals know about the way the mind works. He’s a great showman and artist, and readily admits that there’s nothing magical about what he does in his stage shows. It’s all illusion and trickery, but mightily impressive, especially when you haven’t got a clue how it’s all done.
Reading people’s minds has been the holy grail for many people working in the darkened work of imagery and tricks. If we could interpret the thoughts and strategies of others, who knows what we might be able to control. We know that the impossible will take just a little longer, so we still revere and look on in awe of the David Blanes and David Copperfields and Derren Browns of this world.
But does this mean we are unable to replicate any of their feats? Are we destined to not know anything of the thought patterns of our clients and prospects?
Actually, we can read a lot more of their intentions and needs than we realise. One specific way that people open up quickly to us is in summed up by the ‘chunk-size’ in which they think.
Have you ever spoken to someone and they are going into so much detail you just want to fall asleep? Or someone else who speaks of their business in such generic terms you are puzzled because you can’t really gain any clarity or specifics?
These are just two examples of what is known in linguistics as ‘chunking’.
You ask one prospect: “What do you see happening in your market in the next 24 months?”
He replies “Well, it looks like it will grow slightly as we go through the next three months, as we edge out of recession, then I can see interest rates climbing and this will make people less likely to spend, unless, of course, the banks decide to lend more, in which case there could be a rise in spending, driving us in a different direction and making our suppliers able to reduce prices as demand increases and supply improves, along with competition, so there’s plenty of opportunity for growth in an expanding market, which will assist us to achieve our business objectives of a 4% growth over that time period, allied to an increase of 2.2% in our ROI…..”
Yes, I see.
You ask another prospect the same question and he replies: “I see it growing slightly, with consequential returns on profitability”.
They’re basically saying the same thing. Only the first is approaching the discussion from the perspective of ‘detailed’ or ‘small-chunk’ thinking. They answer the question with pin-point accuracy and microscopic analysis. It might be that you wanted this level of thinking. Or it might be you just wanted a quick opinion. Whichever way you wanted it, the prospect was ‘chunking down’.
The second prospect said essentially the same thing, but from the perspective of a large, generic picture, ‘large-chunking’, if you will.
Who’s right? Which one is best?
There’s no right answer to that, because it’s the wrong question. The right question should be, “At what level (large, small or in-between) do we wish the prospect to be thinking?”
If you want to encourage detailed, small-chunk thinking, you can ask “What direction specifically do you think the market will be going in the short term, and what will be the implications for your business if that happened?”
You’re driving the thought processes in the direction of detail and asking the prospect to follow your train of thought.
By asking “Do you think the market will grow or contract in the next 24 months?”, the presumption is that you just want a short, large-chunk response.
Listening attentively to the level that your prospect thinks at will help you achieve good rapport and build a good knowledge base on which to develop your sales. You may not be able to read people the way Derren Brown can, but you’ll certainly open up opportunities for future relationships.
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Have you heard of matching and mirroring?
It’s the concept psychologists talk about when they refer to us building unconscious rapport with another person. They talk about matching their unconscious body language and gestures so that they feel at ease in our company.
They also refer to matching or mirroring the words they use to describe their experiences. By using similar words, we are able to match the feelings they may be experiencing and are able to appeal to their deeper level of communication, commonly referred to as the unconscious level.
Are you aware of why this actually works? A recent finding will explain all.
Scientists have found a network of neurons in our brain that refer to as ‘mirror neurons’. These demonstrate how we are all interconnected with each other and the world in general.
In one experiment in Italy, they wired up a single neuron in a monkey’s brain to observe what was happening with it. One day, a researcher lifted his hand to eat to a nut.
He noticed that the monkey’s brain cell or motor neuron had activated. These motor neurons are the largest in our brains and deal with movements and action.
The monkey didn’t actually move…only the motor neuron fired. Further experiments showed that when an arm movement was made by the researchers, the monkey’s arm movement neurons moved too. After much excitement, the published paper (Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Gallese & Fogassi – Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Brain Research, 3(2) pp131-141, 1996)) showed the following implications:
* We are connected to other people around us via these mirror neurons
* We move into synchronicity when we are with other people, firing similar brain patterns
* Being on the same wavelength isn’t imaginary…it’s biologically real
What this means is that when someone makes a specific movement, we are programmed through mirror neurons to copy the movement, if only in our minds. And as our minds can’t tell the difference between something real and something imagined, the feeling we get inside is as if we had actually carried out the movement.
So, we can mirror our client’s intentions, looking forward to something that may happen in the future. If you talk about something that would happen if the client used your services, you get them to imagine a future with your company. Their mirror neurons fire off to see the picture as you see it.
We pick up how people are feeling and our minds start to mirror it. Remember that this is at a subconscious level, so you may not actually make the person match your movements, but it will be certainly easier for them if they do.
Mirror neurons have been strongly associated with how people learn. We ‘model’ other people’s ideas and so pick up ways of doing things ourselves. Have you ever felt embarrassed for someone when they make a mistake? That’s because your mirror neurons have seen the situation and imagined yourself in the same place…they determine how you would have felt if you had been in their shoes.
This explains how matching and mirroring really works. You and the other person are firing off these neurons every moment without realising it. If you can bring it to the conscious level, you can create rapport consciously with whoever you are with. You can encourage people to be on your wavelength and help them match your thought patterns.
We’ve known that embedded commands can work at a deep unconscious level for some time now. These findings of how mirror neurons work explain the reasons why.
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Whenever you use phrases like “I only do business with him/her” or “I think that person really understands me”, the likelihood is that you have experienced ‘Rapport’.
Rapport is a personal state between two or more people which allow relationships to form, trust to be built and frustrations to be eased, and this is obviously very important skills for sales people to master.
The infographic below includes a few ways to identify and build rapport with your own clients and prospects to help you increase your sales skills.
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