Do businesses really need to develop rapport with their customers and clients? Won’t the features and benefits of a business’s products sell them, particularly if they speak specifically to the needs of clients?
The answer to the latter question is “perhaps.” Matching the features and benefits of your product to the specific needs of your prospects and demonstrating just how your product solves their problems may very well get you a sale. But what if another company’s product provides the same solution? Is there something you can do to sway the client to your product? The answer to this question is yes…rapport. Establishing and maintaining rapport just might be the one thing that sets you, your products, and your services apart from your competitors.
You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain by developing rapport. I recall William Ury, the co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, saying during a training program there, “Respect is the cheapest concession you’ll ever make.” I think the same is true for rapport. It costs you nothing, but can pay big dividends.
Practical Tips for Building Rapport
Awhile back, I came across an article that provided six simple tips for building rapport with prospects and customers. What I particularly like about these tips is that they are so easy to apply. Not only are they easy to use, they are applicable in most client relationships. Let’s take a look at these six tips and provide a little Intelligent Communication spin to them.
1. Use the customer’s name. Using the customer’s name implies a relationship. It says “I like you.” People generally want to do business with people they like and people who like them. Further, an implied relationship creates a link to the other person. This link potentially sets up a number of influence techniques. I’ll mention one here, as I wrote an article about this concept. Establishing some level of relationship can infer being a member of the same “in-crowd” with the customer. This opens up the possibility of using social proof to influence this customer towards a deal.
2. Say please and thank you. It is interesting that this has to be mentioned at all. Such courtesies used to be so commonplace that no one needed to be reminded of them…except our younger children! Showing such courtesy can be contagious. The customer may very well feel an obligation to reciprocate your courtesy. Given the power of the concept of reciprocation, their feelings to reciprocate could include making a purchase from you.
3. Explain your reason for saying no. Saying “no” at times is part of doing business. Simply giving a reason for your “no” is a powerful way to move your customers forward to a “yes.” Social psychologists have discovered that just sharing a reason for a request (in this case a “no” and a follow-up suggestion) increases the influence of the individual’s request. This is true even if that reason is not particularly persuasive in itself. It sets the stage for presenting an offer to the client they can say “yes” to.
4. Show your interest in the customer’s needs.
The author of these tips suggests that understanding a customer’s needs starts with listening. Intelligent Communication practitioners could not agree more. When we really listen to our prospects and customers, they will generally provide us all the information we need to sell them our products and services. So, listen carefully and follow up with questions to uncover and clarify their needs. Then lead them to see how your product or service will meet these needs.
5. Be empathetic to the customer’s feelings. Empathy is vital to rapport. Relationships include a strong emotional component. What else includes a strong emotional component? Purchase decisions. By showing empathy to your prospects and clients, you not only build rapport, but you set the stage for a purchase decision. Intelligent Communicators are constantly reminded to integrate empathy into their communication. They do this as they work through the steps in the think and feel component of the model. See image to the above.
6. Let the customer know his or her options. While purchase decisions have a strong emotional component, they are not always just an emotional response. Decisions involve thinking as well as feeling. Some people rely more on logical thinking than emotions in making decisions. Others prefer to be guided by their feelings. This is reflective of their individual personality preferences. We included these two aspects of making decisions in the Intelligent Communication model for just this reason. This is also why we discuss options with our prospects and customers.
All six of these tips are easy to use, but they do not always come automatically. We need to practice them. The great thing about these tips is that they are not only good tips for use with customers, they are good for almost all our conversations. This is good news. It means that we have abundant opportunities to practice building rapport. Practicing rapport building in our conversations can help us achieve our goals, whether they are for increased business or just improved relationships. So start practicing and let us know how this works out for you.
Remember, as suggested in tip #4, be swift to hear and slow to speak.