They’re zoning out. The prospect’s not engaging with you. You fear this call is going to end before you accomplish anything.
It’s not easy when you want to gain the attention of customers and prospects on the phone. They’re staring at seemingly endless to-do lists and don’t want to waste a minute. How can you grab their attention? Or if you’re in charge, how do you help your reps to engage prospects on the phone with ease?
Spending the day on B2B sales calls that go nowhere is neither productive nor fun for a business development rep. The key to success comes down to the art and magic of creating rapport instantly.
When you look at the definition of rapport, you can see why that’s such a tall challenge.
“A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feeling or ideas and communicate well.” — Dictionary definition
A close and harmonious relationship immediately? How can that be possible?
It is possible, and salespeople who master these seemingly elusive rapport-building skills generate more sales than other reps. That’s because prospects and customers connect with them and trust them.
So here are three steps to connecting and establishing trust with the people you call.
1. Get Personal … Quickly
When we talk about getting personal with prospects, it’s not about you; it’s about them. To personalize your conversation, you need to know a lot about the person with whom you’re talking. Luckily, that’s easier today than ever before. With marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, you can have all the information you need about contacts and accounts at your fingertips. You can check your notes, the latest news and social network information, and how an individual may have been interacting with your website and content.
All this data is fodder to grab attention when you call. First, introduce yourself and your company, then go right to establishing that connection. Here are some examples:
• The Newsy Connection
“I see that your company recently acquired XYZ. How are you managing the merging of your new data centers?”
• Using Social Network Information
“Congratulations on your promotion to CIO. What opportunities and challenges do you see in your new position?
• Referring to Your Notes
“Last time we spoke, you were busy preparing for a new LMS deployment system. How did that go?”
• Using Intelligence from Marketing Automation
“I noticed you recently downloaded our white paper on Big Data. Can you tell me what interested you in it?”
While each opening is different, two themes run throughout. They start with something personal and lead to an open-ended question — ones that cannot be answered “yes” or “no.” In other words, they are all conversation starters.
2. Stay Personal … Always
We think about business-to-business sales. However, the reality is you are selling person-to-person. You need to take an interest in the individual you’re speaking with rather than focusing on your product or solution. So ask questions about their role, needs and pain points to gain an understanding of the situation they’re facing and how your organization might be able to help them. When you do so, try to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Then demonstrate your empathy through what you say and follow up with how you can help.
“I understand it really can be a daunting task when you migrate for the first time to the cloud. After all, you are putting your faith in new technology. We’ve found, however, that … (state your solution)
Also, if the conversation takes a personal turn, don’t be afraid to ask a few questions. You never know where you might find a common interest that helps solidify your relationship.
3. Listen Up
If you’re committed to getting personal and stay personal, then you also have to listen actively. In the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says that people enjoy talking with others who are interested in them. When you focus your attention on your prospect, they enjoy the attention, feel important and want to continue talking with you.
Of course, listening goes further than just providing the foundation for a pleasant conversation. It makes it more likely that you will be able to understand the prospect’s challenges, ask insightful questions that allow you to dig deeper and find an appropriate solution. To foster listening, take notes and paraphrase what the prospect says. That way they know you heard and understood.
4. Gently Lead the Way
You don’t want to focus so much on your objectives that you don’t listen to your prospect’s concerns. However, you do want to guide them in the right direction to help solve their problem and move closer to the sale. Sometimes that may feel like a delicate balancing act, however, with a little practice, you’ll discover it starts to come naturally.
The key to establishing rapport is to know enough about the person you’re calling and introduce a personal tidbit into the conversation. Follow it up with an open-ended question that spurs a conversation. Continue to ask questions throughout the discussion, paraphrasing the answers and demonstrating your empathy. Keep your objectives in the back of your mind, and gently steer the prospect toward your goals.