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Building bonds Featured

9:40am EDT July 22, 2002
Relationship selling means developing a business friendship with your customers. The purpose is to build a bond between you and your prospects so they are comfortable doing business with you.

When the relationship is strong, the prospect wants to do business with you rather than has to do business with you. And the person who wants to do business with you can justify just about anything.

1. Learn and use the strategy of win-win. As a salesperson, it’s OK for you to win; just make sure your customer is also a winner. Building trust means never taking unfair advantage of a customer.

2. Mirror your behavior. Using body language is one of the easiest and most effective methods of gaining and maintaining rapport. When you mirror someone, you are reflecting his or her posture, positioning your body in a way that is similar to that of your prospect. While you are not striving for an exact mirror image, an observer would notice similarities.

3. Pace yourself to fit the customer. Speak at the same pace as the other person. Usually people who naturally speak quickly have little problem slowing down. Sometimes people who are naturally slow-paced may find it a challenge to comfortably speed up their pace, particularly for prolonged periods of time.

4. Find the common ground. Seek ways to establish common areas of interest and build rapport with the prospect. Look for signs of hobbies or interests. Take note of pictures, trophies, awards, educational background, etc. Mention people you know in common.

Everybody talks about the weather, their kids or sports, and that’s the problem. It’s trite and does nothing to establish rapport. Try to be a bit more creative.

5. What you don’t talk about, ever. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, sex, racial matters, ethnic jokes, dirty jokes and anything else than can inflame. You never know which side the prospect is rooting for, and truthfully, it’s no one’s business.

6. Handle problems quickly. If a problem arises, deal with it in promptly. The longer something is wrong, the more the customer thinks about it. If the customer is in the wrong and your company did nothing wrong, handle the matter in a face-saving way for the customer. Making demeaning remarks about the customer or an employee can destroy in seconds a relationship that may have taken weeks or months to build. Good diplomacy always pays off.

7. Use industry slang only if you’re sure. If you sell to a particular field, make sure you learn and speak the language. However, be cautious when using industry or business slang with prospects who are unfamiliar with the terms. They may take offense if they feel you are talking over their heads or trying to dazzle them with jargon.

If you embarrass them because they don’t understand what you are talking about, you won’t be building rapport, you’ll be alienating them. If they’re busy trying to figure out what a term means, they could miss important parts of your presentation. And what if you use terms incorrectly? You look like a show-off and a fool and can forget about building credibility.

8. Don’t waste people’s time. Some salespeople, the ones who hate to prospect, will visit customers without good reason, just to “build the relationship.”

Big mistake.

Your customers have a business to run, and while some may not say it, they will resent you dropping in just to kill time or for things that could be handled with a phone call or e-mail. Even worse is when a salesperson is told that the boss is busy, so he or she starts to “see how things are going” with the employees, which slows them down in doing their jobs.

Ted Tate is author of “Just Sell It,” Wiley Publishing, NY, and makes in-house sales and business training presentations to companies. He can be reached at (440) 257-7520.