Most people think sales is all about forming strong relationships with prospects. If you do that, they’re going to want to buy from you, right? Not so fast. While I wouldn’t disagree that relationship-building is closely related to successful selling, I believe that relationships are the result of, rather than the cause of, successful selling.
When you first meet a prospect, I think that rapport-building is more important than relationship-building. You’re probably wondering, what the heck is the difference between rapport-building and relationship-building? Think about it. You can have good rapport without necessarily having a strong relationship with your prospect, right? Rapport is simply the conduit for effective communication. It suggests trust and mutual respect. It allows you to deliver your message effectively.
For the sake of analogy, consider how an effective personal trainer produces results for his/her client. The client has a fitness-related goal. The personal trainer is responsible for facilitating the achievement of that goal. Unless the client understands and trusts the trainer, that end goal will remain elusive. In such a situation, while “rapport” is necessary, an actual “relationship” is not. Rapport allows the personal trainer to push his or her client beyond the comfort zone. Without a little stress and that extra push, the client would not likely achieve the fitness goal.
So how does this analogy relate to sales? A salesperson can aim to be a relationship-builder – giving his prospect complimentary hockey tickets and the like – yet a lot of business will still go to a competing vendor. Why? Is the other vendor offering more impressive gifts?
Maybe his prospect actually has more respect for a competitor’s offerings or approach? Could it be that competitor has the courage to take a better sales approach – laying the foundation for good rapport by listening intently to what the prospect thinks he wants or needs, and then redirecting the conversation to what the sales professional knows will produce superior results for the prospect?
Complimentary hockey tickets or similar “gifts” don’t make your prospect’s business more competitive, profitable or valuable. Taking the time to translate your offering’s benefits so that they can be measured using yardsticks the prospect is already using to measure his or her success… now THAT’S a great way to motivate your prospect to leave his or her comfort zone and embrace your offering over your competitor’s.