How I Built Rapport with Members of Hell’s Angels

I think most salespeople will agree that building rapport is one of the most critical skills a sales pro can develop. Since we work with many different types of clients, we have to think on the run, including the time I built rapport with members of Hell’s Angels.

Don’t you wish we could know about the people we could be serving before we meet them? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just know a couple of things about them in advance so we could prepare our opening lines? Well, that’s rarely the case in sales. Especially in the field of real estate, you never know what you’ll find behind the doors of even the most beautiful homes.

One of the most dramatic examples of needing to make a good first impression happened after about my third year in real estate. At this point, I had finally turned my dismal career around and was doing pretty well. I was wearing the latest style of men’s clothing and driving a brand new Cadillac. The Cadillac was THE real estate car of the 60’s. It was long, sleek and just beautiful.
I received a call from a woman who asked me to come by and look at a home she and her husband were thinking of selling. Driving over in my new Caddy and nice suit I was feeling pretty good about myself. When I pulled up to the house, there in the driveway leaned six Harley-Davidson motorcycles parked in a line the way serious bikers park.

motorcycleJudging from the looks of the bikes, my Cadillac and suit weren’t going to help me establish much common ground. A huge, bearded man wearing a Hell’s Angels jacket answered my knock. Glancing into the home, I could see five other guys just like him sitting in the living room. If there was ever a time when a salesperson did not have instant rapport, this was it.

I became very nervous, but tried to hide it. As I walked into the home, I decided to stick with what I normally did for openers. I said, “Before I can give you any figures on what your home is worth, I need you to show it to me.” They were agreeable. What I realized later was that they were agreeable because I presented myself as an expert in my field.

We started in the living room and went into the kitchen. Because the garage was just off the kitchen, it was the next stop. As we went into the garage, there on the floor was a motorcycle all in pieces. They were obviously working on customizing it in some way. If you know my story, I started selling real estate on a motorcycle because it was all I could afford. I asked them how they distributed the weight when they extended the front wheel. I mentioned that I had ridden for several years. Granted, my motorcycle wasn’t a Harley, but this was an area where I could establish common ground. (Thank goodness.)

We talked bikes for about 10 minutes. Then, all of a sudden the entire mood between us shifted. I was no longer a guy in a fancy suit, but a fellow motorcyclist. They relaxed with me and I with them. I got the listing and helped them get happily moved. And I learned an interesting lesson about how making others comfortable was much more important than being comfortable myself. When you’re an expert in your field, you’ll do whatever it takes (ethically), to serve clients the way they want to be served.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

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