Step #1:  Build Rapport To Close More Sales

What is rapport? Rapport is defined as a relationship, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity. To that point, I could have made the header to this first step of the sales conversation ‘It’s Not About You’. The key to successfully closing sales more often is rapport and rapport is not about you. In fact, building rapport can be extremely uncomfortable, because the process isn’t about us, but is about the prospect entirely.

Another wise person once shared an invaluable lesson with me. Once having started the rapport building process, only one member in the conversation may stop it—and it isn’t you! If you are the one who stops building the rapport and moves into selling too soon, it will seem insincere to the prospect and the rapport will be broken and the sales lost.

Only the prospect can stop the rapport building process for your rapport to remain intact. Wait for their verbal clue, “So, what the heck are you here for, kid?” or some variation on that theme.

If you sense body language clues that suggest the rapport building is done, then ask for permission to proceed. Don’t proceed to a sales pitch though, move to Steps #2 and #3.

To assist you in your efforts to more successfully build rapport with your prospects I offer the following four tools to close sales more often.

The Mackay 66

Harvey Mackay is perhaps best known as the author of five business bestsellers, including Swim With the Sharks (Without Being Eaten Alive), Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. He is a nationally syndicated columnist, and one of America’s most popular business speakers. He is also the founder, Chairman and CEO of Mackay Envelope Corporation. He tells his story in anecdotes sprinkled throughout his books.

The Mackay 66 is a tool Harvey Mackay uses and recommends for gathering information about customers: personal information, business background, special interests, lifestyle, their business needs, and the nature of your relationship with them. His approach to using this information is both practical and ethical. It is not used to deceive customers into thinking you care about them more than you do, but rather to allow you to treat them as they would like to be treated.

VAK  – The Language to Close More Sales

A variety of models on learning styles exist. DISC, Myers-Briggs, and VAK, to name three. VAK is relatively simple and thus offers tangible value in the sales conversation process.

Wikipedia says that VAK provides:

“One of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of learning styles is Fleming’s VARK model (sometimes VAK) which expanded upon earlier Neuro-linguistic programming (VARK) models:

  1. visual learners
  2. auditory learners
  3. kinesthetic learners or tactile learners

Fleming claimed that visual learners have a preference for seeing (think in pictures; visual aids such as overhead slides, diagrams, handouts, etc.). Auditory learners best learn through listening (lectures, discussions, tapes, etc.). Tactile/ kinesthetic learners prefer to learn via experience—moving, touching, and doing (active exploration of the world; science projects; experiments, etc.). Its use in pedagogy allows teachers to prepare classes that address each of these areas. Students can also use the model to identify their preferred learning style and maximize their educational experience by focusing on what benefits them the most.”

Once understanding your own personality, vis-à-vis VAK, it is important within the sales process to memorize and practice recognizing VAK in others, and adjusting speech patterns to enhance rapport through the choice of words used to communicate with them.

This learning style makes it about the potential customer, ensuring that they are comfortable, as if they were simply engaged in a conversation with themselves, so to speak.

Match and Mirror To Close Sales

People tend to like those who are like themselves. In the sales process, it is never about you; it is always about your prospect. The key to gaining instant rapport with another individual is to make ourselves more like them and therefore make them comfortable.

To do this, match and mirror their words, their voice tone, as well as their exaggerations and physical positions. Even if your prospect gets up from their desk and goes to the window, go with them. If you remain at the desk, you will seem smaller and then the prospect transitions into control of the conversation and you lose.

Be careful. You don’t want to act like a monkey as you match the prospect’s movements exactly and immediately. If the other person becomes aware that you are using this technique, rapport will be lost. Make your matching and mirroring a subtle reflection of the other person’s behavior so that it does not consciously become obvious to them.

Notice if the prospect is relaxed or tense. Some basic movements to watch for and mirror include: sitting, standing, slouching, leaning forward, backwards or to the side, crossing legs or arms, stretching arms behind the head, putting feet together or pulling them apart. Does your prospect make exaggerated hand movements, gesture with nods of the head, gesture to describe objects or locations, touch their temple, touch their cheek or hold their chin?

Once you have rapport, you can begin to lead the conversation. You can test for rapport during the conversation by making your own exaggerated movements, like leaning forward towards the prospect. If your prospect copies, you then you have rapport. If they don’t follow you, then in due course you should pull back and continue to match and mirror them. Again, this is done to make the prospect feel comfortable.

Telephone/Email Rapport Can Close Sales

When building rapport on the telephone or email, it is clearly more difficult to match and mirror, although it is just as important. Although it is possible to build rapport using Mackay 66, and matching and mirroring, the most powerful technique on the telephone is matching your prospects VAK through the language you use. That can take years of practice.

Email is a little simpler. Matching is simply a matter of matching how your prospect writes and the words they use. You can match:

  • Their salutations: Hi, Hello, Dear
  • Their paragraph structure: large and run on, short, to the point, and/or bullets
  • Their sign-off: bye for now, name only, sincerely, regards, or
  • The language they use

If you use the Mackay 66 method, you might open with an acknowledgement of a past, current, or ‘soon to happen’ family event.


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