How to Build Rapport with a Potential Customer

Three Parts:Practicing Effective CommunicationActing Effectively to Build RapportConnecting with Potential Customers

Rapport is another term for building a genuine connection and a sense of friendliness with another person. Creating rapport with a customer is a great way to land a sale and retain the customer for years to come. Building rapport can be a challenge but it can be done. Once you master the technique of rapport, you can use it to build better relationships with your customers.

Part 1
Practicing Effective Communication

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    Approach the customer with an interesting conversation starter. The first ten seconds with a customer, in person or on the phone, are essential to building rapport. Rather than open with a generic “how are you?” or “how’s your day?” go for a more interesting conversation starter that keeps your customer engaged.[1]
    • For example, you may begin by asking, “How’s your Monday (or actual day of the week) going so far?” or “How is your morning (or actual time of day) going?” Being specific in your greeting can catch the customer’s attention and show the customer that you are detail oriented and on the ball.
    • If you notice the customer is browsing in the store, you may ask, “What can I help you with today?” or “Can I be of some assistance?”
    • If you are getting to know a customer at a business meeting, you may ask more conversational questions. This could lead to a longer discussion where you try to connect with the customer as a person. For example, you may ask, “How was your weekend? Did you do anything interesting?” or “Are you from this area?” or “Are you have a good visit? Where are you staying?”[2]
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    Practice active listening. Once you introduce yourself to a customer and engage them in conversation, you should ask open ended questions and practice active listening. Ask questions that will help you determine what the customer is looking for and never assume or interrupt the customer. You should then listen in an active way to show the customer you are engaged and listening to what they have to say.[3]
    • For example, you may comment on an item the customer is looking at as a way to open the conversation. If the customer is looking at digital cameras, for example, you may open by saying, “That’s a great choice, are you looking for a specific model or type of camera?” This question will then prompt the customer to tell you what they’re looking for.
    • Listen actively by nodding your head as the customer speaks and maintaining eye contact as she speaks. Avoid interrupting the customer or interjecting. For example, she may say, “I don’t know much about digital cameras. But I am looking for a digital camera that allows me to zoom in close to details in a scene and is easy to hold.”
    • Once she has finished responding to you, you may show her you were listening by responding, “Great, let me show you a few models that have good zoom capabilities, are lightweight, and have good grip attachments.” This will indicate that you were paying attention to what she was looking for and processed the information.
    • You may also ask follow up questions that will help you recommend products that will appeal to the customer. For example, once you know what type of the product the customer is looking for, you may ask, “What’s your budget?” or “How much would you like to spend on the camera?”
    • Active listening is also important if you are trying to create relationships with potential customers. For example, maybe you are a mom at a soccer game who is trying to network with other moms about your interior design business. You could start by asking the other moms if they have ever thought about re decorating a room in their home or if they have a favorite interior design style they like. You can then actively listen to them as they answer your questions and ask follow up questions that will keep them talking with you.
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    Respond to the needs of the customer. This is a key element of building rapport, as you want to always be sure you are responding to the customer, not the other way around. Avoid being pushy or overselling to the customer, as you do not want to come across as smarmy or only out for a sale. Rather than offer the customer services or products they may not be interested in, focus on responding to the customer’s immediate needs first.[4]
    • For example, if a customer says she is looking for a lightweight digital camera within a certain price range, do not try to get her to look at film cameras or video cameras. This will indicate that you are not listening to what the customer is looking for or responding to her needs.
    • If you are talking to a customer on the phone and are trying to get them interested in a product you are selling, you may ask a question that also allows you to present your pitch. This will also allow you to determine the needs of the customer. For example, you may say, “I see on your website that you have an internal sales department and I was curious how often you work with outside trainers or consultants? Have you thought about doing this to help improve your results?”[5]
    • If you are the interior design mom trying to connect to other moms as a potential customer base, you may note that some moms seem to prefer interior designers who are aware of how to design a family friendly space. You may then respond to the needs of these moms by asking them how they would envision a family friendly space and adjust your own design ideas to have more family friendly options.
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    Share your knowledge of the product. Show the customer you are knowledgeable about the products you are selling as a way to develop authority and trust with the customer. This will indicate to the customer that you are a salesperson who is well informed and trustworthy. You want the customer to feel like they can rely on your expertise to make an informed choice, especially if they are spending a certain amount of money on your product.[6]
    • For example, perhaps a customer is deciding between two digital camera models. You could offer some knowledge about each model and then recommend one of the models based on the customer’s needs. You may say, “While this model is lightweight and compact, this model is equally as lightweight and has better zoom capabilities.” You may also note your personal experiences with the product, if applicable. You may say, “I actually own the second model and traveled around Southeast Asia with it. It packed well, was easy to pull out quickly and use, and took detailed pictures close up and far away.”
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    Use humor. Laughter and smiling are good signs of communication and connection. Try to keep the conversation light and humorous when you talk to the customer, as this will often show you can provide excellent customer service. In many ways, people will mirror the emotions they see in others. If you approach the customer with humor and a good nature, they will usually respond in kind.[7]
    • Rather than throw in random knock-knock jokes or one liners, aim for light humor that still relates to what you are talking about. For example, if you are discussing digital cameras with a customer, you may make a funny comment about how the camera is designed to appeal to people who are not tech savvy or “luddites” when it comes to digital anything. You may also maintain a smile and a pleasant demeanor throughout the interaction with the customer to show them you are affable and engaged.
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    Say “please” and “thank you”. Do not underestimate the power of being polite when you are interacting with a customer. Punctuate your statements and questions with please and thank you. This will show the customer you possess gratitude and professionalism.[8]
    • You should always thank the customer for their time at the end of the conversation, even if the sale does not happen. Ending the conversation on a polite note will likely leave a good impression on the customer, which could lead to a sale from the customer the next time you contact them or the next time they come into the store.
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    Focus on the things you have in common with the customer. To create a meaningful connection with a potential customer, it is important that you focus on the similarities you share with the customer. People are more likely to buy products from a salesperson they can relate to and connect with. Think about how you can foster a sense of common ground between you and the customer.
    • This could be as simple as noticing the customer supports the same sports team you do or noting the customer lives in your neighborhood. These small connections can act as a jumping off point for conversation and for rapport.
    • You may also share deeper connections with the person that are based on values and beliefs. If you are trying to connect with other moms, for example, you may focus on the ways you both raise your children and participate in school events. This will give you common ground with potential customers that you can then use as a way to form a connection.

Part 2
Acting Effectively to Build Rapport

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    Appear well dressed and well groomed. This is very important if you are making an in person sale with a customer. Being well dressed and well groomed will show the customer that you care about maintaining a professional appearance. It will also signal that you took the time to get yourself together before stepping out onto the sales floor. Often, customers will analyze you based on a first impression. Make sure you make a good one by presenting a clean, trustworthy appearance.
    • This means making sure you smell pleasant, your hair is well groomed, and your nails are clean. Men may also take care of their beards so they are well groomed and clean.
    • You may also dress professionally in a suit and tie or a blouse and a long skirt. The idea is to dress in a way that shows professionalism and confidence.
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    Display open body language. Present yourself to customers in person by showing open body language, as this will encourage the customer to build a rapport with you. This means positioning your body toward the customer, with your feet and your upper body turned toward them. You should also keep your hands at your sides. Avoid crossing your hands over your chest or fidgeting with your hands or with your clothing as this can signal nervousness and a lack of confidence.
    • You should also maintain eye contact with the customer when you speak to them and they speak to you. Smile and keep your face relaxed to show you are engaged and interested in what they have to say.
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    Do a product demonstration. Get the customer’s attention by showing them how the product works. This action is especially important if you are trying to sell an expensive or high end item, as the customer will likely want to see the product in action before they invest. Doing a product demonstration will allows draw the customer to you, allowing you to then engage with them and build a rapport.[9]
    • For example, if you are trying to sell a digital camera to a customer, you may put a memory card into the camera and take a few images around the store to show the customer how the images look. You may also allow the customer take a few pictures on her own so she can get a sense of how it feels to hold and shoot with the camera.
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    Focus your full attention on the customer. Put away your cellphone and step away from your computer when you are engaging with a customer. This will show the customer that they have your full attention and that you are not distracted in any way. Doing this will also encourage the customer to interact with you and create the opportunity for a rapport or back and forth with the customer.[10]
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    Follow up with the customer if they are open to connecting again. Though you may not land a sale during your first interaction with the customer, it is important that you still make an effort to build a rapport with them. You can then offer to follow up with the customer so you can connect with them again. In your next interaction with the customer, you can build on the rapport you already have with them and possibly get them to seriously consider a product or buy a product. Customer relationships take time to build so it is important to be patient and to show tenacity in your interactions with your customers[11]
    • You may end a phone sales conversation by thanking the customer for their time and then asking if you can contact them at a later date to discuss the product again. You may say, “Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I know we didn’t find a product to suit your needs today but would it be possible to contact you at a later date?”
    • You may end an in person sales conversation by thanking the customer for their time and offering to shake their hand, even if you did not sell anything to the customer. This will show goodwill and indicate that you are interested in building rapport over a long period of time instead of landing a quick sale.

Part 3
Connecting with Potential Customers

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    Create a positive online presence. If you do not already have social media accounts, you should consider building them. Create an online presence that projects expertise and accessibility. Use a photograph of yourself where you appear smiling and confident. Keep your profiles full of positive language that illustrates how engaged and energized you are about what you do.
    • In our current digital age, people are more likely to do a Google search of your name and note your online presence. You want to make sure customers are seeing a side of you online that is likeable and relatable.
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    Treat everyone as if they are a potential customer. This does not mean you should see every person as an opportunity. Instead, this means treating every person with respect and friendliness, no matter who they are. Be polite and show interest in everyone you meet, as you never know when a stranger may turn into a customer.
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    Ask current customers for referrals and recommendations. You can also connect to potential customers through your existing customers. If you already have a healthy customer base or at least several customers that think highly of you, you should ask them to refer you to others who may also benefit from your skills.
    • You can also ask current customers to write positive reviews on your social media accounts and to provide a positive testimony of your services for your website.

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Categories: Customer Relations