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All About Building Rapport with Customers

· Sales 101

There are many senior salespeople around Mike who are so good at connecting with their clients. He then realises that they spend so much time and effort building rapport with their customers to create sales opportunities. With a good rapport, a salesperson is going to create a sense of trust and understanding within minutes with anyone they meet.

So, what is rapport? Why do salespeople need it? And how do they build rapport? Let’s see how Mike shares his experience in the rest of this article.

What is rapport in sales?

Rapport lays the foundation for effective, intimate and harmonious interpersonal relations. In sales, it's the sense of connection that a client gets when they meet a salesperson they like, trust and understand. Once they learn that they share each other's values and goals in business, a bond is created.

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How does Mike know when he has a rapport with his clients?

(i) They are mutually attentive to each other. Mike finds that he and his clients are both focused, and interested in, what each other is saying or doing.

(ii) They have positive attitudes towards each other. They are both friendly and happy. Mike shows that he is concerned about their needs and his clients will listen to his ideas and suggestions.

(iii) They coordinate with each other. Whenever Mike meets or talks to his clients, they both feel "in sync" with one another. This shows that they share a common understanding as they have similar energy levels, body languages and ideas.

It’s hard to describe the connection but he knows it when he “clicks” with someone. Even if they didn’t connect with each other immediately, Mike still has time to develop a positive relationship with them.

Why do salespeople build rapport?

Rapport is a kind of two-way connection that Mike can’t create on his own, but why is it so important?

1. It builds trust.

Rapport establishes trust in Mike and his client. The better he gets to know his clients, and the simpler the process is, for them to get to know him. They can trust Mike to find the best solution for them or offer the best service for their company. The clients can listen to his ideas and advice before making any decisions. This can smoothen the negotiating process and achieve success in sales.

2. It builds client’s confidence.

Not only boosting his client’s confidence, building rapport can also enhance Mike’s confidence as a salesperson. When he continues to develop relationships with existing and potential buyers, he keeps using and strengthening his skills and supports them to reach a good end. Besides, a strong confidence gives Mike’s clients a sense of security that he will never disappoint them by always fulfilling their expectations.

3. It helps to practice skills.

Building rapport gives Mike the ability to learn more, and develop his skills. He gets to practice his communication and social skills, talents and marketing techniques, logic and reasoning, critical thinking, and many more. This applies to all the existing and future customers. Mike has time to adapt and respond to their various personalities and desires by spending time getting to know them, while he supports them with sales experience.

4. It increases sales closing rate.

A good rapport can bring a positive effect on Mike’s sales performance. When a customer ends up pleased and fulfilled with his company’s product or service, they can pass it on to someone else. This is where the word-of-mouth takes place. Those who have had great experiences or those who have learned about him and his services will look for him to help with their company. While growing his customer base, Mike develops closer relationships and increases his sales.

How to build rapport with clients?

Since building rapport brings so many benefits, how does Mike do it?

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1. Address them correctly.

First impressions are important. So, Mike always makes sure that he learns to pronounce his clients’ names and address them correctly. However, there are still names that are very hard to pronounce – “Niamh”, “Eos”, “Xiomara”, “Mireille”, etc. If he really doesn’t know the pronunciation, he will let them introduce themselves first.

After that point, it becomes his responsibility to pronounce their names correctly. It’s totally fine to ask them to repeat it when he still doesn’t get it. Most customers appreciate his effort to address them properly, and this will set off his rapport on a positive note.

2. Show empathy to the problems they are facing.

No matter if a client is proactive or reactive, most of them talks to Mike because they have encountered some sort of issue with the product or service that his company is offering. So, Mike is always prepared to be empathic to any problem they have. This helps to move the conversation forward.

3. Listen to them attentively and respond with sincerity.

It’s true that many people do not know how to listen attentively. Mike knows that it’s important to listen to the pain point of his clients before he starts to sell his product or service. It’s essential to always understand their problems and needs because a good salesperson helps clients solve problems rather than trying hard to sell.

Mike always gives them enough time to express their thoughts and expectations, then only he starts to respond. Never ever read from a script because clients can tell if a salesperson is sincere. So, be true to the clients and always respond with sincerity.

4. Use positive words.

Phrasing is the key. Sometimes, it’s uncontrollable to say something that the clients don’t like to hear. To avoid this kind of situation, Mike always tries not to use negative words like “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry because I’m new”. Instead, he turns those phrases around by saying, "I'm not sure of the answer, but I will find out now and get right back to you" or "I’ll let you know after checking in with my colleague on the best way to approach this problem." They carry the same meaning but these phrases come across as more professional, positive and less concerning to customers.

Five Rapport Levels in Business

Rapport between businesses and their customers are complicated in nature. One critical problem concerning ABC company is the degree of relationship between a consumer and an individual salesperson. They will not want to see a customer leaving the company when the salesperson does so. Hence, it requires a balance between these relationships to ensure a close rapport between the salesperson and client, while protecting the client-company relationship at the same time.

While it is important to develop a strong between client and salesperson, ABC company hopes to cultivate the following five relationship levels within its organization:

Level 1: Personal Rapport

Clients have to build a good personal relationship with the main contact, the salesperson which is Mike. They have to know him, trust and like him so that they will be convinced to buy from him. As a sales manager, it is important to help cultivate this relationship and understand its importance.

Level 2: Business Rapport

It’s not enough to be recognized and trusted as clients nowadays expect salespeople to be someone expert in their working industry. So, salespeople have to add value and handle their request during every meeting to make them feel that ABC company is reliable.

Level 3: Corporate Rapport

This is a higher level where the clients need to develop a strong association with the organisation, which indicates a certain level of trust with the company.

To achieve this, it is a must to introduce everyone inside the company to the clients. The key relationship they should build is with the sales team. If the company is small, the business owner has to develop some level of rapport with the clients as well. Also, clients need to know the customer service team, and maintain a good relationship with them. These are some of the key contacts that are essential to helping the client feel that they are given special attention and most importantly, helping them develop loyalty to the company as a whole.

Level 4: Customer Advisory Panel

This gives the customers a third level relationship within a business in which they are forming relationships within ABC company’s customer base. This connection acknowledges the strong relationship between the two parties, with ABC company as the connecting point. It acts as an additional assurance that sticking with the company is in the client's best interests.

Level 5: Testimonials & Case Studies

The last step is to further improve the relationship with testimonials and case studies after spending so much time establishing relationships with customers. Normally, when a client openly compliments a company and is published in writing, video or audio material, it will be hard for them to leave it and go to another company.

Apart from helping to improve the connection with a company’s current clients, a testimonial or case study helps to leverage their relationship to create new leads.

These are some of the ways that ABC company can help protect themselves from a customer being too strongly attached to a single salesperson inside the company by taking the steps to build a deep relationship with their clients. By following the steps, they will meet the goals of building customer loyalty to their overall business.

Maintaining Sales Rapport

It’s not the end even when Mike successfully builds a rapport. He still needs to maintain it from time to time. As long as the client feels that Mike and ABC company are trustworthy and sincerely concerned for their needs and expectations, the rapport can be sustained.

Fundamentally, the sales rapport building cycle will never end. It requires long-term cultivation to strengthen the relationship, or it will be destroyed. Building rapport is more than just closing a deal with a client. When salespeople do it and practice it correctly, it can be their ticket to success and excellent ties.