How to Build Rapport, Before Talking New Business

People do business with people they like
by Todd Knutson

genuine85% of buyers of marketing services state they're more likely to purchase from a provider with whom they've established some kind of personal chemistry. This was cited in a white paper I read recently and points to the incredible importance of building rapport with your prospects.

People prefer to do business with people they like.

Some of us are natural "people people" who thrive on meeting new people and establishing new relationships. Many of the rest of us are uncomfortable meeting people for the first time and establishing new business relationships. This post is for those who would like to improve their rapport-building abilities.

Five Steps to Connect with Your Prospects

  1. Be Yourself - Be Genuine. You can't maintain a fake persona over time, so don't try to be someone you're not. Most importantly, don't try to be "salesy". Just relax and be yourself.
  2. Be Sensitive to Time, But Not Pushy. You'll never get to know someone if you use your hour talking about your firm or yourself. Too many inexperienced new business people walk into a meeting, open up their Mac and walk through a PowerPoint credentials presentation. Don't. You've got to come across as a real person: if you jump right into business you may create a tense environment. Start by getting to know the other person, and then use your intuition about when to make the switch to business conversation. Wait too long and they will wonder if you're just wasting their time.
  3. Balance Asking Questions with Talking/Advising. If you ask too many questions, or too personal questions too early, your conversation may feel like an interrogation. The trick is to balance smart questions with talking about yourself, providing real-life examples, or offering suggestions or advice. Your goal is a comfortable balance of the two.
  4. Active Listening. Better yet, actually listen. All of us are guilty of barely listening to the person we're with, while we wait to jump in with what we want to say. The single most important thing you can do to build rapport is to listen. (Read a post about this.) When you're actively listening you have the opportunity to hear opportunities that many others will miss.

Your goal is to establish a connection with your prospect. Said another way, to find how you're similar. It could be job, family, school, home town, sports, hobbies, travel, etc. Once you have a connection or two, your opportunity is to match the services you provide with a current or potential need.

While being liked may not win you the business, it can tilt the odds in your favor.

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