People do business with people they like. So how can you get customers and prospects to like you? Think of selling as an art and a science. The science of selling can help you understand your customers and how they select their preferred suppliers. Their preferences start with rapport.
What is rapport?
Rapport is the feeling you get when you have an environment of trust and understanding. The best salespeople are very skilled at creating rapport, a critical selling skill. Fortunately, rapport is a skill that can be learned. This feeling leads to trust and the ability to persuade.
Another aspect of rapport is that people feel comfortable with people who they perceive to be like themselves. Your customers make decisions about rapport based on observable behaviors. For many of them, they decide on an unconscious level. To create rapport in sales, you consciously make decisions about your customers’ and prospects’ observable behaviors. Pay attention to these behavioral clues so you can identify them and use them in selling,
Assertiveness and Responsiveness
The two dimensions of behavior that people use to make decisions about rapport are assertiveness and responsiveness. Assertiveness is how other people perceive you to be forceful or directive over people or situations. Each customer is either comfortable with more or less assertive behaviors. Responsiveness is how other people see you as showing or hiding your emotions. Your customers are either more responsive or more controlled.
Have you ever noticed the differences in customer handshakes? They range from “the fish” all the way to “the bone crusher.” That’s your first assertive behavioral clue. Assertive people have more firm handshakes than less assertive people. Other assertive clues are: louder voices (versus softer voices), quicker speech, faster walking, consistent eye contact, decisiveness, more extroverted behavior, and telling people more than asking them to do tasks. Less assertive people perform the opposite of these behaviors.
Have you ever given a presentation to a stone-faced customer? This is your first clue about the responsive dimension. When a customer lacks facial expressions this is a clue that the person is controlled or less responsive. Other controlled behaviors are: less frequent hand movements, less frequent nonverbal feedback, focusing on tasks rather than people, speaking in a monotone voice, making decisions based on facts instead of opinions, and a very inflexible view of time.
So how do you use these clues?
First pay attention to your customer’s behavior. Try to gather as many behavioral clues as you can. People are not machines so your customers will exhibit some less assertive clues as well as more assertive clues. This applies to responsive behaviors as well. Weigh the evidence for both dimensions and see where there is a preponderance of clues. That will be the behavior that is most comfortable for your customer. To create rapport, use the reverse Golden Rule. Treat others the way they prefer to be treated, not the way you prefer. This means doing more of the behaviors that your customer feels comfortable with. This will create rapport and your customers will feel more comfortable with you.
For some of you, modifying your behavior even for short periods of time will be a challenge. It will get easier over time if you practice identifying and using the clues. The science of selling is in establishing rapport. The art of selling is when you effortlessly build rapport with clients and see your sales increase.