This post was originally published by Olivia Adkison on lessonly.com.
If you’re currently in sales or have completed any sales skills training during your career, you’ve probably heard about building rapport with your prospects and customers. And contrary to whatever sales-stereotypes you may have in your mind, rapport is not built on charisma, a past connection, product knowledge, or even conversational savviness—although these things are helpful and likely already on your sales skills resume. No, rapport hinges on one word: trust.
A few years ago, LinkedIn’s State of Sales report unveiled this truth with two key data points:
- 40% of sales pros ranked trust as the primary factor in closing a deal with someone. Runners up were ROI and price.
- 51% percent of decision makers rank trust as the top factor they desire in a salesperson.
So it’s universal—sellers and buyers alike agree that having a trust-filled relationship is what makes a deal close and a business grow. While building rapport is far easier said than a quick countdown, I hope these four tips give you practical ways to build trust. Whether a prospect ends up buying from you or your competitors depends on it. Let’s jump in and add “trustworthiness” to your tool belt of salesperson skills and qualities.
1. Building rapport at work is similar to making friends in real life—but not identical.
It’s easy in the sales world to get caught up in jargon and business phoniness. Case in point, raise your hand if you’ve ever set up a “quick connect” with a prospect, “circled back” on something, “bumped an email” to the top of their inbox, or checked-in about that one-pager you sent last week. We don’t talk with our friends like this, but we do with our coworkers and prospects.
I’m as guilty as anyone of doing these things, and to an extent, it’s part of our world and one of the key sales representative duties. But when I think of how I build relationships with friends and build rapport outside of work, there’s a lot more authenticity. If I’m going to send an email to a friend, it’ll be because I saw something they legitimately may find helpful, not because I’m sending that same email to 1,000 other people hoping someone responds.
All this to say, be thoughtful in your outreach and think of building business relationships like you build friendships—within reason. Obviously boundaries are important, but mirror how you might build rapport with friends. You build trust by being reliable, listening well, enjoying their presence, and bantering. Steal a play from that book and use these simple tricks in outreach with your prospects.
2. Communication and responsiveness are vital.
Communication and responsiveness are skills for sales executive leaders and brand new SDRs alike. Communicating with your prospects how they want to be communicated with, and when they want to be communicated with, truly matters. A common misconception here is that salespeople need to have their devices nearby 24/7, 365. It doesn’t have to be like this.
While year-end and quarter-end grinds are definitely a time when unplugging is less doable, it’s important to teach reps in sales training programs how to set boundaries with your prospects and set clear expectations for when you’re on vacation or when you’re not working your normal 9-to-5 hours because you’re caring for a sick child. These boundaries are sneaky ways to build rapport—you may indeed be less available, but when you share why, prospects understand and trust you more.
3. Every touchpoint is a chance to make your prospect the hero.
You won’t find this one on a list of sales technical skills, but you might on a list of soft skills. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: You could have all of the sales skills and abilities in the world, but if you don’t have a radical focus on the person (aka, the prospect) in front of you, you can’t build trust as effectively.
So whether you’re calling, emailing, meeting in-person, Zooming, or interacting in any other fashion, make sure that your sales skills and techniques don’t get in the way of highlighting the work and effort of your prospect and celebrating their wins alongside them. This may look like keeping up with their company on LinkedIn, watching for news about their company, emphasizing your appreciation for their time on exploratory calls, and more.
4. Be transparent.
Last but not least, be upfront and clear with your prospect. Transparency and honesty are two secret trust-building weapons. If you’re prospecting someone, they know your end goal, and you do too: You want them to buy your product. But your job as a salesperson is not to over-eagerly sell to anyone who might buy. And it’s not to convince someone that they need your product either. It’s your job to show them how your product or service will legitimately help them in their job or life—if it actually will.
B2B and B2C folks alike know all too well how to spam each other’s inboxes with offers and invitations to things that won’t actually make their work easier. Be transparent about what your product or service does, and if you find out in discovery that you’re not a good fit for each other, part ways cordially. Persistence is good, but only when you’re prospecting the right person. Who knows? Maybe they’ll remember the rapport you built when they have a genuine need for your product or services in the future.
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