In sales, the art of rapport is crucial to closing more deals. Rapport is about establishing common ground with your prospect. Done right, rapport can direct your prospect’s focus to the things that you both share in common, making them like you, trust you, and feel like you’re their friend. When a prospect feels this way toward you, they’re much more likely to buy from you. However, most salespeople don’t build rapport effectively and therefore don’t earn as much money as they could. As a result, their finances continue to dwindle and so do the other areas of their life. Salespeople who can build rapport have an almost magical advantage over every single one of their competitors. They have the ability to connect deeply with their prospects and sell more products and services in less time.
Rapport is a powerful tool when used correctly. But in order to do so, you first need to avoid these two major mistakes that many frustrated salespeople fall into:
1) Skipping rapport altogether
Most salespeople avoid building rapport because they don’t know what to say. They feel that they have nothing in common with their prospect. They’re afraid of looking or sounding stupid and killing the sale. Of course, by not building rapport, it’s almost impossible to influence someone. If your customer doesn’t feel connected to you, they will almost never buy from you. The trick to avoiding this mistake is covered in detail further down in this guide and its simplicity and ease of implementation might shock you.
2) Spending too much time on rapport
This mistake is made by salespeople who don’t know when (or how) to transition from the rapport-building stage into the next step of their sales process. As a result, they often watch hopelessly as their conversation with their prospect veers impossibly off-course and away from any opportunity to move the deal forward, much less close.
So how can you avoid these two fatal sales mistakes and be sure to build rapport rapidly and effectively, causing your prospect to virtually beg you to move further into the sales process? The answer is in a powerful formula. This formula can be used on every sales call and adapted to any product, service, or industry to build genuine rapport faster and easier than ever before. Here is the four-part formula for rapport-building mastery: Q.A.T. (pronounced like “cat”).
Here’s what each letter stands for:
Q – Question
A – Answer
T – Transition
The first step in building rapport is to ask a question. Most people get this wrong and think they should make statement, such as complimenting the prospect on his RV. Instead, ask a question that will open up communication, get them talking, and start the whole process. The best kind of questions to ask when building rapport are questions that express your interest in their wants and needs. What do they want? What is their current situation? What do they want for the future? Why? To use a dealership as an example, a great question to start with is “so what brought you here today?”
The next step in the formula is the answer to that question. The customer might say “Well I need a new RV.” Once they’ve given you an answer, you simply feed them another question, continuing on the same thread. For example, you might say: “Great! What is most important to you in a new RV?” This will produce another answer from your prospect, giving you even more information to continue leading them down the path of least resistance while encouraging them to reveal information you wanted to know. This is how you build rapport. You let them talk and you continue to listen and ask questions that are relevant. They perceive you as being interested in them, which causes them to like you.
So when do you know to transition out of rapport into your presentation or closing material? There are two options. First, and ideally, your customer will eventually stop talking about themselves and ask you some more detailed questions about your product, your service, your company, or your price. Any questions like these are great signs that it’s time to move the sale along and get closer to the finish line. However, sometimes the prospect will continue to talk about anything and everything besides the sale at hand. They might talk about their kids, their marriage, their favorite hobby. This might go on so long that you’ll run out of time to close them. It’s really a judgment call on your part, but if you feel like they’re never going to make the first move and bring up a question related to your product, redirect the conversation with this simple and universal transition: “By the way, you did mention (want / need), so it sounds like something you’re going to do eventually?” An example of the want or need would be the desire to purchase the new RV.
By asking them this simple question, you take control of the conversation back and cause them to reaffirm their intention to buy your product or service eventually. If they answer “yes” to that question, they have just admitted that they will be doing this. Now your job of building rapport is over. It’s time to hold them accountable to their commitment to buy and shrink the timeline from “eventually” to “right now.”
Building rapport is a crucial key to your success in the profession of selling. If you don’t know how to use this tool, you’ll lose deals that otherwise you would have won. There is no need to overthink rapport. In essence, the three-part QAT formula tells you everything you need to know. Ask questions about your prospect’s situation and desires. Be genuinely interested in their answer as you listen so you can follow up with smart questions. Let them make the first move to further the sale once they feel comfortable with you. If they don’t, use your magical sentence to obtain a commitment to buy eventually. The rest is up to your sales process and ability to close on the back end.