You Can’t Skip Rapport

Jenny actually needs your services.  You know she does and, more importantly, she knows she does.  But when you suggest that you get your work started, she says “let me think about it.” 

You graciously give her time, but she doesn’t call you again.  Then, when you finally do call her, you find out that she’s “decided to hold off,” or she’s “working with someone else,” or my favorite–she’s “decided to go in another direction.”

You’re bewildered.  There was such a clear match between her need and your services.  What could you possibly have said or done that would have sent her somewhere else?

Maybe it’s what you didn’t say or do.  You moved from “hello” to “what’s the problem” to “here’s how I can fix the problem” to “let’s get started,” skipping over Rapport.  Without developing rapport first, the other steps in your procedure won’t be effective.

“Of course I developed rapport first,” my client Rachel, who sells printing services, insisted. “I saw the picture on his office wall of the fishing boat and I asked him about it. We got into a whole discussion about fishing and boats…”

Some professionals believe that “amenities,” (small talk) are necessary before proceeding into the interview of a prospective client.  Some swear that their clients want to get right down to business.  While there is some validity to both of these schools of thought, they both dance around the concept of rapport.  Just because you talked about boats doesn’t mean you developed rapport—because the small talk at the beginning of your sessions is not really where rapport is developed.

While small talk, finding things you have in common, and other ways of connecting are all important, rapport comes from the questions you ask when you’re interviewing a prospective client.  Surface questions–what Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling, calls “situation” questions–are necessary to provide you with the information you need to help a client, but they don’t have any real value to the client.  He or she already has the information.

Rapport comes from your genuine desire to help the client, reflected in the “deeper” questions you ask:

“What’s a typical day like for you?”
“How do you get people to understand what you do?”
“What made you choose this industry?”
“Is this something you want your children to take over some day?”

You won’t find rapport questions on any form questionnaire your company or firm might use…they come from “childlike” curiosity.  Slow down your interview to study the fascinating prospective client in front of you the way an eight-year old might, and ask questions that will win his or her trust.

If you want to learn how to be an expert at developing rapport with your clients, contact me today.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…