Sales clinic: The language of rapport

Sales clinic: The language of rapport

Having a genuine understanding of a client's business is the best way of connecting with them.

What factors are most important to you, as a buyer, when you're making a big purchase? Is it price? Maybe quality and delivery are major components of your decision-making process. Is it the service you receive?

Recent research indicates that up to 80 per cent of a person's buying decision is based on emotional factors. Do you like, trust and respect the salesperson? Do you feel as though you've "connected" with them? Has the salesperson successfully built rapport with you to the point that you feel comfortable making a large purchase from them? These can all be critical factors in a person's decision to buy or not to buy, and it's the salesperson's skills in this area that will mean the difference between winning and losing the sale.

When making a buying decision, large or small, our prospects and clients expect no less than we do.

People tend to buy from salespeople who prove that they understand their client's business better than anyone else trying to win it. They buy from people who have listened intelligently, and from people who have shown a greater interest than others in the issues the client is facing.

These battles are not won solely during your bid presentation or proposal, but before, during the infancy stages of the sales process. By the time the presentation begins, you and anyone else in your sales team should have a thorough understanding of the client's business.

The language used during your sales presentation should be the client's language, reflecting the client's own terminology and motivators.

When we pitched for Qantas many years ago, we noted the exact language used by those we interviewed as part of the bidding process. If a decision-maker used the words "market driven", for example, we noted those words and then wrote them into the presentation. Then, when the presenter used the words, he turned to that decision-maker and spoke to him/her.

It's the language of rapport. It shows each person in the audience that you have listened to them, that you are like them, and you understand the issues behind their buying decisions. It certainly increases the chance of you genuinely "connecting" with them.

The best salespeople go into every meeting armed with information that will show the client they already have an understanding of the client's business. They find out the easy answers before the meeting, so they don't have to ask low-level questions in the client time. All the easy-to-answer questions are dealt with by asking people other than the decision-makers. When the decision-maker is available, the level of questioning rises to a new plane and the conversation reflects a mutual understanding of issues, rather than the client having to educate someone new to the business.

The result for you as a salesperson will be a decision-maker who feels you truly understand their business and care about his/her buying decisions. They gain a level of comfort in dealing with a salesperson who understands them, their issues and opportunities, and also adds value to their business by being prepared, professional and focused at every stage.

Jeff Sheard is sales director for Asia-Pacific of Rogen International. Reach Rogen at:

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