In 1884 John Patterson founded The National Cash Register Company. Patterson believed that pilferage and sloppy point-of-sale bookkeeping by store clerks was a primary reason store owner’s lost money, and from the start he was convinced that the cash register addressed those business challenges. However; in 1884 the “voice of the customer” was not shouting – I need a cash register. So, he took that silence to mean store owners only thought they didn’t want his cash registers, and over the following 37 years he engaged them by starting conversations through the first modern sales force. In addition, he created a new marketing approach by fronting his sales motions with direct mail campaigns. By 1912 it was estimated that NCR’s market share was 95%. That was long before my tenure with “The Cash,” but I do consider my NCR sales training priceless.
Are you kidding me, priceless? Feeling a little nostalgic are we? After all, in today’s age of the empowered customer who needs direct sales relics? With the rise of social networks isn’t eye-to-eye selling through blue-suited go-getters so last century? In addition, with high-powered analytics in your arsenal who needs to use the fine art of persuasion? With today’s technology magic you already know what the customer needs before they do; right?
OK, I’ll get to the point of this post. In Genie Z. Laborde’s book “Influencing with Integrity” the author covers the importance of rapport in the communications process. In fact, she states that “Without rapport, you will not get what you want – not money, not promotions, not friends.” In short, if rapport is missing … no sale.
The first NCR Sales Primer in 1887 divided a sale into four steps: approach, proposition, demonstration, and close. In the approach, the salesman made no mention of the cash register. Instead, he explained that he wanted to help the businessman find ways to increase profit—that he wanted, in effect, to act as a consultant. Imagine that, establish rapport first.
Rapport is a tricky thing though. If you have too little the relationship feels cool and never matures. In a business situation there’s also risk in pushing it to the other extreme. After all, not all customers are looking for an intimate relationship with your company. Sometimes all they really want is a fast, safe and accurate transaction.
At the end of day, how are you and your company building customer rapport? How do you know when you’ve established the right level of rapport? And just because marketing is now “starting conversations” rather than “pushing conversations” does that mean the art of persuasion is ancient history?
The ability to influence and persuade with integrity impacts the customer experience. And that means the art of persuasion is definitely not dead. Laborde states that “Liking the other party is not a prerequisite for rapport, mutual confidence in competence for the task at hand is.” In short, that translates into a concerted effort of building trust and credibility in order to secure rapport. Trust and credibility can be developed and nurtured on social platforms and the old fashioned way.
But online or face-to-face it’s not going to happen if you don’t do your prospecting homework. You are not going to become a trusted consultant if you keep trying to jump straight into the demonstration first. Being members of the same LinkedIn group or following each other on Twitter isn’t a free pass to sidestep the rapport building process.