Is Rapport Killing Your Revenue?
Order takers put a lot of stock in building rapport. If you asked them, “What’s the most important part of sales?” many order takers would have “building rapport!” at the top of their list. They pride themselves in being experts of small talk. They are uniquely gifted in noticing all of the customer’s office photos and pointing out that their kid also plays…wait for it….soccer!
Whether it is the big mouth bass hanging on the wall, the game last night, or even the weather order takers around the globe seem to invest a tremendous amount of the dedicated sales meeting shooting the breeze and seeking this holy grail of sales called rapport.
Small talk and building rapport isn’t bad in and of itself. But what do we really accomplish when we build rapport? A smile? A nod of the head in agreement? Sure we’ve all heard that “people buy from people they like” but in today’s modern marketplace I would propose that rapport has become a bit overrated. I start any dedicated sales meeting with some pleasantries myself. It’s just polite. However in relation to actually selling this is maybe 2–3% of the time spent when I’m in front of a customer. Rapport can actually keep you from getting revenue and distract your customer from what’s really important to them — solving problems.
Here are 3 reasons a focus on rapport might be keeping you from revenue…
1) We’re learning about things that don’t make us any money.
What I’ve observed is that order takers (aka price quoters, relationship builders, anti-closers) are sometimes so focussed on building rapport that they forget to get down to business. They know all about the prospect’s children and their hobbies, but know very little about the prospect’s problems and headaches. They spend 20 minutes of a 30 minute sales meeting talking about things that don’t make them any money. What are the things keeping the customers up at night? What are their goals for Q4? What is the one thing standing in the way of accomplishing those goals? Do we know the answers to these questions or are we building rapport and just submitting bids hoping that we’ve made such a great connection that the customer will buy?
Do customers buy from people they like? Maybe sometimes…after shopping the competition, price concessions, and long sales cycles.
Will customers buy from people that make them more money, make more time in their schedule, and make less headaches but didn’t mention that the Panthers are 6–0? Yes. Almost every time.
2) We don’t ask for action.
A rapport obsession also builds in a convenient excuse to avoid closing and asking for the customer to take action. Order takers are often concerned that they may damage the relationship by seeming pushy or sticking to their guns on price. They’re not willing to proudly explain the benefits of working with them for fear of seeming arrogant or too confident. They don’t say NO to customers because they don’t want to burn a bridge.
Unfortunately when we don’t ask for the business, professionally explain our value with confidence, and habitually discount our prices we build bridges that go nowhere. These bridges aren’t useful for generating revenue because they’re only built on rapport. In order to generate revenue we must ask the customer to move forward. Our goal is to make customers not make friends. If a customer ever accuses you of being pushy then simply say something like:
“I’m sorry. Please don’t misunderstand my enthusiasm for pressure! I’m just completely confident that my company and myself are the perfect solution for ______________ (insert problem here). What should our next steps be?”
3) We create long sales cycles.
In Missouri we say “If you’re gonna take an ass whooping, make it a fast one.” An overemphasis on building rapport can really cloud your vision as to whether or not you have a real profitable partnership, or just a good buddy to take golfing.
Sales pros find out very quickly if they have someone that appreciates value and is willing to pay for it. Not everyone is a good customer for your company and for you as a sales person. When we stay laser focused on our sales process of finding needs, presenting solutions, and asking for the business then we shorten the amount of time it takes for us to determine if this is a good customer for us. It’s very possible for a sales person to have a great sense of rapport with their customer and think that “There’s no way this guy’s going anywhere else…” only to find that the weeks (and sometimes months) spent building rapport only distracted them from the fact that this customer is only interested in the lowest price and not value solutions. The last thing you want to do is to spend a lot of time investing in a relationship that isn’t leading towards revenue. Take your ass whooping quick and move on.
No question rapport can help in the sales process. The question is how much? Sales pros don’t overestimate the amount of influence rapport will have in the customer making a buying decision.
People buy for 2 reasons:
- They love your product and they have to have it. (great if you’re in real estate, retail, or selling Ferraris)
- You’re solving their problem.
Building rapport needs to be a small part of our dedicated sales meeting with the bulk of the time devoted to strategic questions, value driven solutions, and asking the customer to move forward to solve their problem.
Rapport is nice but revenue is real. So stick to a sales process that drives the dollars with solutions and not just smiles.
CHALLENGE: This week look at your dedicated sales meeting agenda. How much time are you devoting to small talk and how much time are you devoting to solutions? Make sure rapport doesn’t account for more than 2–3%.
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