How often has this happened to you? You got a promising referral, or scheduled a conference call, or showed up at an initial meeting with someone who seemed like a perfect fit for your service or product. Then, about five minutes into the discussion, you found yourself experiencing a “disconnect” of some kind with that seemingly perfect prospect. And the relationship died.
If you were in a face-to-face meeting, maybe the other person’s body language changed and suddenly seemed more defensive. Maybe you got less meaningful information than you thought you were going to get, and maybe the meeting ended sooner than you thought it would, without any meaningful next step being set.
So what happened?
You experienced “Failure to Launch” syndrome. Why? Because you pushed too hard, too early for information. You didn’t build an appropriate level of trust and rapport before trying to build a business relationship!
“Failure to Launch” syndrome happens when the other person – who may indeed be a perfect fit for what you sell – decides that you’ve jumped into “countdown mode” too early in the relationship. The other person loses confidence in the process because he or she feels unheard. And what happens when Houston doesn’t feel confident about the mission?
The countdown stops!
Here’s how to get that rocket off the launching pad: Build an appropriate level of trust and rapport before you try to build business! Investing time to learn about your prospect before “pitching” your product, directly or indirectly, will help you build rapport and trust. When you understand your prospects, it’s easier to understand their points of view. Prospects must have a sense of your sincere interest before they become comfortable with you and seek your advice.
So don’t begin an initial conversation with, “What do you think about the nice weather we’ve been having?” Or, if there are pictures of kids in soccer uniforms on the prospect’s desk, “I see your kids play soccer – so do mine?” (Maybe they’re not the prospect’s kids – maybe they’re nieces and nephews – and perhaps the prospect and his/her spouse could not conceive.) Or, if there’s a mounted fish on the wall, “Where did you catch the fish?” All of this is amateurish and outdated! It’s anticipated by the prospect and you’ll sound like most every other salesperson trying to build disingenuous rapport.
To engage your prospect in a meaningful conversation and facilitate the process of developing trust, you should have prepared questions to ask at the outset of the relationship. To prevent the conversation from wandering from topic to topic, you should also have a framework from which to ask those initial questions.
Begin the conversation by focusing your questions on the individual, not on one’s possessions, or the weather, or the pandemic. Next, expand your questions to focus on the company and the marketplace in which the company operates. (Or, with homeowners focus on the home and neighborhood.) All of this must happen before you refocus the discussion on the reason for the meeting.
The following are some examples of good, generic rapport and trust building questions.
Ask about the prospect:
• “How did you end up in this business?
• And/Or, “How did you get started with this company?”
• With homeowners, “How did you end up living in this area?”
Ask about the prospect's experience with the company:
• “How did you end up as the Senior Vice President here?”
• “What do you enjoy the most about the business?”
With homeowners, ask about the neighborhood:
• “What do you like the most about the neighborhood?
With relevant and meaningful questions like these, you not only build rapport, but you also build credibility. If you do your homework before calling on your prospects, you will know something about them, their companies, their neighborhoods, etc. Also, you can use that knowledge to frame your rapport-building questions.
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