Rapport Building – Step 6: Finding Common Ground

In the rapport setting stage of selling, your #1 goal, as stated in other blog posts on this site, is to help people to like you, trust you and want to listen to you. If you think about selling situations you’ve been in yourself, you’ll have to admit you have the same preference. The sale just seems to flow more smoothly when you learn that you have something in common with the salesperson. So, part of your job in this stage of the sale is to learn something about your buyers that you have in common and talk about it briefly to demonstrate that commonality.

Here are some areas to consider in consumer sales (B-to-C):

  • Are they married?
  • Do they have kids? If so, how many? What ages? Are the kids involved in sports, music or other activities?
  • Are these people sports fans? What sports? What teams? (Take note if they’re wearing a local team’s jacket, shirt or baseball cap.)
  • What part of town do they live in?
  • Have they always lived in this city? If not, what area of the country did they move from? If you moved to the area from elsewhere you can briefly talk about first impressions of the area or what they enjoy most about living there.

Here are some areas to consider in business sales (B-to-B):

  • How long has the decision-maker been with the company? (If you’ve been with yours the same amount of time, mention that. If they have great longevity with their company, compliment them on that.)
  • What changes have they seen during their time with the company? (This should give you several topics to choose from in establishing common ground.)
  • If you are in their office, look for personal items such as vacation photos, items related to hobbies, or business awards to ask about.

No matter who you are speaking with, refrain from giving your opinion about anything. Not to be blunt, but they probably don’t care about what you think of the local sports team unless you agree with them. And you would never agree with them if in your heart you don’t because that would be unethical.

When appropriate, inject a bit of light humor into your initial contact with people. If you can make them smile, chuckle or laugh out loud that’s a form of acceptance. Be careful not to attempt to give a “stand up” comedy routine, though. Remember why you’re meeting with these people — to serve their needs with regard to your product — not just to make a new friend or fan.

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