A Simple, 4-Step Blueprint for Building Rapport in B2B Sales

Think about what drew you to your BFF when you first met. Now, do the same with your next sales client.
A Simple, 4-Step Blueprint for Building Rapport in B2B Sales
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All salespeople have heard the term "build rapport" more times than they can count, and for good reason: Rapport is a critical element of any sale. But if your competitors are already doing it, and well, you have to do it better to outsmart those competitors and win over those clients.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Social Media to Build Rapport With Your Customers

How do you build rapport? Consider your closest friends. When you first met, what drew you to them? Were they outgoing, sincere? Quick to help? Honest? Did they show respect for your time and values?

Alternately, consider people you've met who seemed off-putting. Which aspects of their character or personality irritated you? Perhaps they talked too much, were self-centered, inappropriate or unfriendly.

And, finally, to make this exercise relevant to your sales work: Consider how much more likely you are to buy something from a friend than a stranger.

Generally speaking, the traits that would attract you to any human being are characteristics that will attract a client to you. And those that turn you off will likely do the same for a client. Those clients who feel a kinship with you are more likely to purchase from you -- thus the billion-dollar, multi-level marketing industry.

The following tips and tricks can help you take your rapport-building skills from "nothing to write home about" to "sold!"

1. Do your research.

Research the client in advance to allow for the most meaningful connection at the first touch. If you speak the client's native language, consider connecting with him or her in that language during your initial call. Jeff Ragovin, chief strategy officer for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, suggests, "Before the call, research the structure of the organization, their industry and recent news; you always want to go into a meeting as prepared as possible."

If you've traveled to the client's hometown, share your love for the unique attractions there, from weather to beaches to quaint main street shops. Creating a sense of nostalgia and connecting over a place that is meaningful helps establish instant rapport.

2. Listen with the intent of understanding

If you're anything like the rest of humanity, you'll ask someone a question and then, instead of listening to the response, spend the time trying to formulate your response. A key component of building rapport is listening with the intent of understanding rather than  the intent of responding immediately and appropriately.

One great way to work on this skill is to get in the habit of repeating what you heard for clarity. For example, "Let me confirm my understanding of the situation. You're frustrated with the project because deadlines have not been met consistently." When you know you'll have to repeat what the client has said at the end of the discussion, you're much more likely to focus on listening rather than formulating a response.

Related: 6 Quick and Easy Steps to Connect With Anyone

3. Work to uncover needs.

A good salesperson should function like an extended team member. Consider, for example, the step in the sales process that requires an identification of the client's needs: Rather than assume that your client knows his or her needs, step in like a friend or colleague would and work to uncover the client's pain points. Ask questions that require this person to think outside the box and more closely scrutinize his or her current solutions.

Executive coach and communications consultant Suzanne Bates has written on her company's home page: "[Great salespeople] not only find out what people want, or get a whole picture of their point of view; they send the strong impression that they actually care about the customer. There is no influencing the outcome, until the customer believes the salesperson is listening and cares about them."

When you present yourself as an expert, a resource, and a consultant at no charge, and are empathetic to your customer's situation, clients begin to trust you, and you start to establish rapport. 

4. Add value at no cost

Adding value to client operations at no cost to the customer is an excellent way to create rapport and build a friendship and network relationship. There are hundreds of ways to add value to the client's operations using the talent and tools at your disposal. Consider these actions:

  • Send the link to an article that reminds you of the client; the article may speak to a problem he or she is facing, a current event in this person's industry or a new technology on the horizon that could be of assistance.

  • Invite the client to attend an exclusive training session that you typically provide only to internal staff, which might assist the client in personal or professional development.

  • Share a tool you've created to address a problem or need the client has (such as a spreadsheet, template, or form).

  • Offer to assist the client with wording on a company website, email blast or other marketing collateral.

By adding value at no cost, you do more than build rapport; you establish a debt that clients often feel innately obligated to repay.

Consider how you do business. If a salesperson revamped your landing pages and lead-capture forms using state-of-the-art software you don't have -- and the motivation was just to help you -- you would feel more inclined to purchase the salesperson's product.

Related: 4 Questions That Will Build Rapport and Boost Your Relationships

So, next time, be the one offering that help.

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