People buy from those they like and trust, often regardless of the strength of the sales pitch or quality of the products and services. That's reality. The challenge for sales professionals is to master the art of instant rapport with someone you may be meeting for the very first time versus leaving it to chance.
So what is rapport? It's the point at which your prospect both understands you and believes you understand them. The majority of most buying decisions are made primarily for emotional reasons -- including trust and rapport. Only when these intangibles are in place, do most prospects seek rationale justification for the emotional decision they've in reality already made. Absent rapport, many buyers feel so uncomfortable in a pitch that they aren't likely to buy even if they really want the product.
When meeting a prospect for the first time, be sure to come out of the proverbial gate from a position of strength, as indelible first impressions are made within the first eight seconds. Assertively walk toward your prospect and offer your hand versus more passively waiting to be approached. Dress a step above your prospect so you're immediately seen as a valuable business relationship.
Kick the conversation off with open-ended rapport-building questions designed to help you understand what makes your prospect tick. Avoid the temptation to talk too much about yourself, as the quickest way to derail rapport is to dominate the conversation. Demonstrate active listening skills by making regular eye contact, taking notes, avoiding distraction, repeating what you heard and asking thoughtful follow-up questions.
Seventy percent of communication is non-verbal. So if your prospect's body language and verbal communication don't align, trust the former of the two. Then put your questioning skills to work to uncover why the lack of rapport or trust exists.
Speaking of non-verbal communication, use "mirroring and matching" to communicate to your prospect that you're of a similar mind. If he is leaning forward intently, consider leaning forward as well. If he is highly animated in his delivery, match his style. Consider mirroring your prospect's tone and conversational tempo as well. While this can certainly be overdone, and your synchronization should be subtle, people are innately drawn to those who seem to "get them."
In the end, half of the rapport battle is confidence. Walk into your very first conversation with your prospect assuming that you have rapport from the start. If you talk with prospects as if they are already close friends you care about, you're more likely to quickly break down barriers and create a connection.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).