Building the rapport is the key to any customer engagement whether that be sales or service, it is the stepping stone to building trust which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Prospects are willing to answer honestly questions about who makes the decision or tell you which competitor is in the box seat. Customers are willing to work with you to iron out any problems and are open to discuss other ways you may be able to help their business.
Building rapport is a personal thing and never stops throughout your engagement with the customer and there are many tools/skills that can help you;
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc have enabled us to quickly find information that is relevant, to help break the ice and not rely on the boring age old ‘how’s the weather’ chat. Although be sure to tread lightly, talking about their children’s football game you saw on Facebook could come across as creepy.
Paraphrasing and re-stating what you hear during the conversation demonstrates to your prospect or customer that you are listening and that you care.
Match and Mirror
You don’t want to walk into a meeting wearing a suit and they are all in flip flops or have a casual unstructured conversation when they would prefer a formal engagement. Read the culture, understand the individual to ensure that you match their tone of voice and mirror their actions. Be a chameleon, people like people they them, but always be true to yourself. Which leads to my next point…..
Oscar Wilde said it best ‘be yourself, everyone else is taken’. Once customers and prospects get to know you they will appreciate your honesty and the trust will follow. If you are in sales or service you need to truly believe that you are there to help the customer, otherwise you are in the wrong profession!
All these skills and tools are great but they are useless without the most effective tool in your rapport arsenal – your smile!
Smiling should be the cornerstone for whatever you are doing. Whether you hit the phones or are out there pounding the pavement make sure you smile. Your prospects and customers when they hear it in your voice over the phone just as they would if you are sitting in front of them. There is also the added benefit it could actually make you happier too!
If you don’t feel like smiling that day, try faking it. Facial Action Coding expert, Paul Ekman, conducted research that concluded even a fake full smile could produce a change in brain activity corresponding to a happier mood.
So what do you do if you don’t naturally greet people with your pearly whites? Get into the habit – put a reminder on your desktop computer, on your cars dashboard, even write it on the back of your hand. The more smiles you give the more you receive, it is a gift that keeps on giving and it is the key to building rapport.