It is joyous when present, unsettling while fading, difficult when gone. Rapport is the glue that binds people together in families, organizations and relationships, including sales.
For salespeople, knowing how to establish rapport is at best, half a skill. Why? As sales guru Dr. Peter Marino wrote, “No salesperson can reasonably make the following claim: ‘Even though the customer did not establish rapport with me, I established it with him.’”
Rapport can be ephemeral. Much like holding a small bird in your hand, too loose the grasp, it flies. Too tight, it can’t breathe. So, what can be done to avoid losing rapport?
1. Prepare: Set an intention to establish rapport with every customer before every UP.
2. Smile: A genuine smile is best, but let’s face it, Everyone can have a bad day. Studies have shown that the very act of smiling makes people feel more relaxed, comfortable, and more like smiling. It's a positive feedback loop. So, if you can’t manage a 100 percent genuine smile right away, fake it until you make it!
3. Avoid: Try not to rush, make customers wait or waste their time. Don't talk when listening is called for. Being scripted or robotic instantly kills rapport, as does appearing distracted. Give them your full attention and turn off your phone! Poor knowledge of your products/services is the same as wasting their time. Never care more about making a sale than helping customers to make the best buying decision. Poor body language such as arms crossed, lack of eye contact, and unprofessional dress are uncalled for. Failure to immediately address even the smallest negative customer issue or disappointment is cowardly and rapport-killing.
“What is scary about rapport,” added Peter Marino, “is that salespeople can lose it through the awkward interference of a third party, like a delivery person, receptionist, cell phone, a manager, a store policy, a shopper’s friend, spouse, child or family member.
“Like honor, rapport can be lost through someone's malicious slander, such as a competitor’s lie about your products or service policies (or a real or fake online review). But while others can affect the rapport between a salesperson and customer, the salesperson has primary responsibility for establishing and maintaining rapport with the customer.”
Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.