Building Rapport – It’s the Little Things That Matter Most

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of something and your phone rings and it’s a sales person calling. You know instantly how the call is going to go just based on the first few sentences the sales rep utters. And if you listen for just 2 minutes longer, your hunch is confirmed – it’s either a “good” call or a “used car salesman” call. And unfortunately, many calls these days sound like the latter.

So what can you do to instantly make your calls better? It all starts with focusing on building rapport. Rapport is simply defined as making a true connection with the person you are speaking with, rather than treating them as a prospect you can sell your product or services to. Ultimately, it’s about treating your prospect with respect, you know, the way you would like to be treated.

So how do you do it? It’s easier than you think if you concentrate on the little things. Below you’ll find a quick list of things that may not seem that important, but that make a giant difference in the way you are perceived as a caller. As you read through the list, ask yourself how many of these things you do regularly, and what you can begin doing better on your next call.

Working with the gatekeeper: The most important thing you can do when speaking with the gatekeeper or receptionist, is to be pleasant and courteous. I always recommend that you keep a mirror on your desk, and when the receptionist answers the phone, you look into it and check your facial expression. Are you smiling? Are you frowning? Are you wincing? Your attitude will be written on your face, and that attitude will be conveyed across the phone.

And the gatekeeper feeds off your attitude. If you’re bright and cheerful, it will pick him/her up, too. If you’re not – well, you probably already know how that goes. So concentrate this week on making sure that your attitude is contagious – because it is. And by the way, this goes for when you reach the decision maker as well.

Next, be courteous. I’ve written about this before, so just a quick reminder: Use please and thank you, and if you ask how their day is going, make sure and comment on it before you rush into what you’re calling about. Don’t just ask as a formality – that’s phony and the receptionist can tell. And, as always, use an instructional statement rather than a closed ended question at the end.

Working with the decision maker: All of the tips above apply here, too, but here’s something specific: If you ask the DM how they are doing, or how their afternoon is, or if it’s still raining (or hot) there, then if they ask how you are, always reply with, “Thanks for asking, I’m…” In other words, answer them back and engage them a bit. You don’t have to rush into your pitch—in fact, it’s much better if you don’t. Building this little bit of rapport will get you much further. So take a few seconds to interact, respond, and be polite.

Next, before you give your value statement or reason for the call, preface what you’re about to say with a softening statement. So many reps just barge right in and that’s an immediate turn off. It’s much better to say something like, “I know you’re busy so I’ll be brief,” or “We haven’t spoken yet, so I’ll respect your time today,” or “I just have a quick question for you…” and then ask it. Again, build rapport by softening your pitch, and then give your prospect a chance to engage with you.

And here’s the last little tip today: keep your value statement short. I’m talking no longer than two sentences. After you do, get to a question immediately! Doing so will allow your prospect to engage and start talking, and when they are talking, you are learning. Plus, if it’s not a good time—or if they want to blow you off—this will give them an opportunity to say so. If it’s not a good time, you can qualify quickly and set a better time, and if they try to blow you off, you can use a good rebuttal.

Either way, giving your prospect a chance to interact with you builds rapport and lets them know you’re not going to be a used car salesperson, rather, you’re there to interact, make a connection, and truly listen to what they have to say. And isn’t that the kind of person you’d like to speak to?

Try these little tips this week and see how many more people you get to have meaningful conversations with. There will be more than you might think.