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The Art of Building Rapport


August 18, 2015

There is one skill I’ve found to be one of the most important, if not the most important skill a salesperson can have, and that is art of building rapport. I like to call it an art simply because I feel that it is. Building rapport with a potential client can be a casual conversation lasting 15 minutes, or hopefully more, and should not be confused with networking, which can be a few moments of conversation followed by an exchange of business cards. While networking can often be the precursor to building rapport, it is not nearly the same.

You can hone this skill over time, but if you are lucky, it’s inherent. Can you strike up a conversation with someone who is a total stranger, and have that conversation last an hour? You never know who you are talking to. You never know where it could lead, or who they may be able to introduce you to.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As a salesperson, the key to your conversation is to find topics that interest the person you are talking with. Ask them questions. Once you have them engaged, and talking about a topic that interests them, you are on your way. Most of the time this will have nothing to do with work. Even if the topic is something you know really very little about.

Pull out of your brain what you do know, what you’ve read, seen on TV, or seen in a museum. There are lots of things that I don’t care for – like hunting, and even though I don’t hunt, I know I could carry my weight in a conversation. As a salesperson, it will be of infinite value to you to be an open-minded, cultured and well-rounded individual who knows a little bit about many things. Being well-traveled doesn’t hurt either.

Keep the conversation flowing until you see an opportunity to change the subject to something you know more about, and you are well on your way to having an interesting, well-rounded conversation with someone who may one day soon become a client of yours, and will certainly remember you the next time you call them. The ease at which you can talk to people makes them relaxed. It may eventually enable you to get more information from them. Maybe more information than your competitors are getting.

While the above seems obvious to me, I hardly ever see it being done. It’s one of the things that will truly set you apart, and make them remember you. As salespeople know, there are many other companies out there selling the same products & services as you. Go out there and build rapport – it’s another way, possibly the most important way, to differentiate you from your competition.