Building rapport during the sales process is a strategic skill and process that takes forethought and preparation. While it’s possible for relationships with clients to automatically click, or to find a convenient conversational cue, those who take the extra steps to build a relationship with their prospect find it easier to close business, faster.
In our last article, we introduced the importance of the initial introduction; the first 5 minutes of a sales call. If you are not completely knowledgeable about your product, as well the problem your product can solve for your ideal audience – your prospect might lose confidence in your ability to lead them down the path to success.
Salespeople can easily miss opportunities to connect and create rapport with clients when they take the situation for granted, are nervous, or are driving their own agenda. The salesperson who excels at this interpersonal skill is one who thinks about their plan to build rapport before the client meeting takes place.
Right now, we will take a look into how to structure your conversation, to drive a successful sales meeting by building rapport
SET THE AGENDA
The best way to build rapport is to set an agenda for success. The reason your prospect has agreed to take a meeting with you in the first place is because you have a solution for a problem they need to solve. You are the expert with the shortcut around the roadblock to success.
Quick Tip: Before a sales conversation ever begins, Imagine you are driving your prospect to the perfect destination – one you have created for them specifically to be successful. Here, you’ll need to position yourself in the driver’s seat. Ask yourself; how will we get there? What are the questions I need to ask to determine where this destination is? How much time will I need?
So. how will you get them there?
Ask Leading Questions – A great sales professional doesn’t sell at all, but utilizes questions that show interest; then, listens closely and responds appropriately. Most of the time, we know the answers to these questions, but use them to help the prospect re-frame they way they think about applying your solution. You’ll need to research your client ahead of time, to better understand the questions you need to ask – like, if they are currently working with a technology provider or have an internal IT department.
A great example of a leading question would be: “Are you currently working with a managed service provider, or doing everything in-house?” or “When was the last time you were provided an evaluation of your current state of technology and security?”
Anticipate Objections – The ability to anticipate objections is a vital part of setting a successful agenda for success. A prospect will challenge you, and as a technology expert, you must be prepared to respond quickly and confidently to help veer the conversation back to it’s correct course. Although it might not seem obvious, anticipating objection helps build trust between you and a potential client, and inevitably the rapport you’ll need to win them over.
A great example of an anticipated objection would be: “We work with many healthcare professionals like yourself, and deeply understand the importance of keeping client information safe, as well as in line with HIPPA compliance standards” to avoid objections such as “We already have an internal IT department familiar with healthcare compliance regulations.”
Instead of asking for suggestions from your prospects, you’re asking the right questions – and anticipating the objections that could keep you from driving them to success.
Once you have set an agenda for your conversation, you must earn time with your prospect by continuing to build credibility, minute by minute. The best way to do this is to fill your meeting with examples of success relevant to your prospect.
Quick Tip: Put yourself in the prospective client’s shoes; a business owner with a problem. He has an abundance of solution providers bidding for his attention, with limited time to spend. If your prospect is making time for you, be sure to win his trust quickly by providing relevant information of success in clear examples.
So, how will you build credibility?
Product Knowledge – Too often, sellers assume their clients know more about them than they do. Cliché as it may be, a person cannot give what he does not have. Arm him with all the knowledge he needs about your products and services so that he can maximize it. A prospective client doesn’t want to be pressured into making a decision before understanding every aspect of your solution – and at the same time, can not absorb an abundance of information in one conversation. Give your prospect only the information he needs to make the most educated decision possible – nothing more or less.
Here’s a great example of how you should use product knowledge to build rapport: “You mentioned earlier that you have an internal IT department in place to handle basic day to day operations, but I’d like to specifically talk about how our cyber security products can help your team protect client data more effectively”.
Industry Knowledge – As a technology business owner, odds are you have many segments within your target audience. Do you understand each one, as well as the specific problems these industries face? If you sell products directly to an end-user, do you have demographic information (e.g., what are their average income ranges, education, typical occupations, geographic location, family makeup, etc.) that identifies your target buyer? What about lifestyle information (e.g., hobbies, interests, recreational/entertainment activities, political beliefs, cultural practices, etc.) for your target buyer?
This type of information can help you in two very important ways: First, it can help you introduce solutions you recently provided to current clients in similar industries, giving real life examples of success. Second, you can build trust with your specific client, as he now knows you work with business owners just like him.
When most people attempt to build rapport, they try to earn someone’s trust and ask for responsiveness. They ‘earn and ask’ it to be respectful, but it comes across as too timid or passive. You’re a leader, not a follower, and leaders don’t try to slowly earn trust or timidly ask for responsiveness. They assume trust and demand responsiveness.
In an earlier post on increasing audience engagement in webinars, I talked about a little activity I do at the beginning of some events.
When I first walk out, I say, “Thanks so much for having me, I’m so happy to be here. Right now, I’d like everyone to raise their right hand.”
I raise my hand and watch as people gradually raise their hands. I even gesture upwards with my left hand to encourage everyone in the room to get their hand up.
Then I say, “Now I want you to wave it around like you just don’t care.”
Everyone starts to awkwardly wave their hands.
“Take your hand and put it on the shoulder of the person next to you. Now give them a little shake and say, ‘Oh crap, he’s interactive.’”
At this point, I see a lot of smiles and hear laughter around the room, so I say something like, “Thanks everybody for playing along and being good sports. We’re going to have a lot of fun today. Let’s get into it.”
What have I done there? I’ve assumed trust and demanded responsiveness. In the first 20 seconds, I’ve established who’s leading the event. We truly want to utilize this same concept in the sales conversation.
So, how can we do this on a sales meeting?
Check In: After setting an agenda for success, providing relevant examples of success, and explaining your solution to meet your prospects specific needs – It’s clear who’s in the driver’s seat. So now you have the perfect set up, but how do you know your prospect is engaged the entire time? By asking a simple, short, direct question and expecting a reply, you’re checking in and building rapport not just from the start, but through out your presentation. You’re assuming trust and demanding a response.
A great way to check in with your prospect is to ask: “Does that make sense to you?” or “Can you see our solution as providing a beneficial relationship between both organizations?”
A successful sales meeting is a collaborative process, and building rapport doesn’t always come easy. By using these killer ways to build rapport with your prospective clients, your sales meeting should provide your prospect with the confidence to work with you – right now.
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