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An Introduction To Relationship-based Selling
By Michael Stahl   Printer Friendly Version

Always make sure your appearance is neat and professional. Come prepared to answer questions and take control of the meeting. Remember that, "Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail."

When you sit down, try to sit on a couch side by side or in close proximity at a table with one person sitting at the end and one on the side. This allows you to be sitting in either the same direction or almost the same direction. You are trying to avoid sitting directly across from your prospect at all times. This unconsciously creates an adversarial situation in the prospect's mind. When you sit across from a person in a sales presentation there is a competitive sub-text being played out.

You want to "share space" with your prospect instead of squaring off with him. If you are in agreement and sharing common interests, sharing space or being "aligned" with your prospect automatically leads to a deeper rapport. It's like you have the same space or wall in front of you. You are both looking into the "fourth wall" together which makes your meeting much more comfortable and psychologically relaxed. You are more likely to see things the same way, to get in tune with each other and to feel in sync.

Remember, if you feel uncomfortable then you do not have rapport with your prospect. In this era of relationship based selling especially, if you do not have rapport, you will not sell. Rapport is a prerequisite for all human communication. There is a powerful human need to "fit in".

Some Techniques to Develop Rapport: Matching - This involves putting yourself on the same "wavelength" as your prospect through common interests, body orientation and similar speech patterns.

Common Interests - Everyone enjoys talking about their own interests. It helps to make the prospect feel like you understand them if you relate to them on their level. If the prospect is interested in football, then you should express an interest in football. If the prospect enjoys bass fishing, then you should express an interest in bass fishing etc.

Body Orientation - Be aware of how a person is sitting or standing. Do not overtly "mimic" them (that would be disrespectful and could be interpreted as offensive) Simply notice their posture, how their head is tilted, where their hands are etc. Then slowly adjust your body posture and alignment to theirs. This helps to develop rapport with the prospect because it makes them feel more at ease with you. Note: This "mirroring" technique many times will not work to create positive rapport unless you are wearing similar clothes and have a similar appearance at the time. For instance, if the prospect is casual and you are wearing a suit or vice-versa, the mirroring will not be effective in creating rapport. This technique only works well if both people are "matched" in casual or professional dress at the time.

Similar Speech Patterns - This goes back to matching the rate and rhythm of the prospect's speech the same as on the telephone. If they are very fast-talking Northerners, you should also speak rapidly. If they are very slow talking, laid back Hawaiians, then you want to speak slowly and be more "laid back".

Ask Questions About Their Life - If you are in a person's office, you can look at family pictures and ask questions about their family, friends and work. Be sincere and genuinely interested in what they have to say. Allow them to talk and listen intently. ("I" is the most frequently used word in the English language. In a group picture people always look for themselves first. Understand that people like to talk about themselves).

Remember that nonverbal behavior has to match verbal behavior. Statistics show that employees and prospects get confused between verbal and nonverbal messages. When there is a conflict between the two, people always choose to interpret the nonverbal communication over the spoken word. Words can be said that mean nothing because they are overpowered by voice quality, facial expressions and gestures. Always be consistent with your verbal and nonverbal communication. If your words are warm and your body language conveys discomfort or stress, your prospect will be ill at ease and the rapport will be broken. Be an example of the state of mind you want to convey to people. It should always be positive with lots of enthusiasm to develop meaningful rapport!

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