Rapport is Common Ground

A couple of years’ ago I lived on a typical family estate with 3 and 4 bedroom homes, each with three children, two dogs and one barbeque. Every November I received a box of poppies from the Royal British Legion and I would knock on doors to see how many poppies I could sell.

Each year I raised a consistent £35 or so.

People weren’t reticent about buying poppies after all it’s an amazing cause. The problem was that many people had already bought their poppy or had signed up to a standing order or always bought one from a favourite seller. So I had to be happy with my £35.

But one year I decided a different tactic and thought about building a rapport with my customers. At the time my son Lewis, was aged 5 and actually rather cute.  He’s now turned into a teenager so is now rather frightening.

I decided to take him with me so decked him out with the posters of rank, a box of poppies around his waist and a cute bobble hat.

And what happened next was amazing.

The first door I knocked on, the man of the house came to the door, looked at me and quickly realized that I was selling poppies, then he glanced at Lewis and I could read the man’s mind. “Ah”, he thought, “this man is selling poppies…I already have my poppy…how can I turn him down.  But hold on…he has a son about the age of my son…he’s a dad like me…we have something in common…I like this man…he’s just like me…where’s my wallet?”

That night I made £78.50.  Same road, same houses, same people.  But I doubled my takings.

The simple fact was that I was showing my customers that I was the same as them; I was building a common ground. You see people like to deal with people who are the same as them and have done so for thousands of years.

It may not be fair but it’s true. People like to deal with people who are the same as them.

The first thing they teach you in sales training school is to find something in common with your customer and talk about this.  In fact Dale Carnegie made this famous in his book “How to Make Friends and Influence People”

Something else you can easily do is to become more like your customer and the way they are.  Pick up on one or two aspects of them and match these.  This will build a strong initial rapport.

When face to face with customers, we can pick up on their body language, seating position, gestures, eye contact, energy levels, conversation…and copy one or two of these.  Don’t make it too obvious maybe have a time lapse of a few seconds. Possibly sit like they are sitting and copy the amount of eye contact they give you and slow down or speed up to match their energy levels.

When not face to face, when on the telephone, you can pick up on aspects of their voice such as speed, volume, tone, rhythm.

Try to follow a couple of aspects of their voice such as their pace and maybe their tone.  You’ll be amazed as to the effect it’ll have.  Your customer will feel you are a little like them and will warm to you more.

Leading the Dance

Every Sunday during the rugby season, I and a couple of other dads run an Under 11’s rugby team. Now the kids love to play but at the beginning of each season they’re all a little unfit from their summer excesses.

I’m not much better I hasten to add.

So the first thing we do is some fitness runs to see how we all get on.  I tend to hang back with the slower kids and keep them moving. I find myself slowing down to keep with their pace and then gradually speed up.  Oddly enough they keep up with the new speed and can finish the run slightly faster than otherwise.

This is quiet a common thing is sports.  All top athletes have pace setters whose job is to set the pace for the others in the race.

This concept is useful in selling on the telephone when you wish to match your customer’s voice pace and then lead them to a slightly slower or faster pace.

It’s called leading and is a great way of seeing if you have rapport with your customer.  Simply match their pace and then gradually slow down or speed up.  If they follow your new speed, then you have a firm rapport.