Sales experts have long touted the value of establishing rapport with prospects before moving into the sales conversation. This exercise includes looking around a prospect’s office to determine points of conversation and perhaps even areas of commonality and then making small talk.
In a post I wrote last week, I suggested that sales people should not use valuable sales time to engage people in social chit-chat. Not surprisingly, I received comments and emails from people who disagreed with me.
I don’t expect people to agree with everything I write…that would be boring.
But those comments got me thinking…
Why are so many people stuck on this concept?
Don’t get me wrong…
There was a time when this strategy was extremely valid, useful and effective.
However, decision makers in today’s hectic business world are far too busy to waste valuable time on social chit-chat. They honestly don’t care if you have something in common with them. And they certainly see through your attempts to use photos and awards to better connect with them.
If you really want to establish rapport with busy prospects get to the point of your meeting as quickly as you can. Or, ask them a question or two about their business.
A few weeks ago I met with a new prospect and as I was taking a seat in his office, I made a simple comment about the upcoming expansion of his business. This prompted him to tell me what the company’s plans were and gave me additional insight into his situation.
I would suggest that we were developing rapport but it was not based around small talk or social chit-chat.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.
1. If you are waiting for other people to arrive then small talk is usually necessary. After all, you don’t want to sit there in complete silence. Not only would that be uncomfortable…you would probably be perceived as being a dork.
2. If several people are present and introductions are being made, there may be opportunities to engage some of the in social chit-chat. My caution is to be to be sensitive to the time and avoid spending too much time on pleasantries.
Is there a time and place for rapport-building conversation?
It just isn’t the same as it used to be. The key is to be selective and recognize when it makes sense to engage in small talk and don’t just do it because that’s what you think is the best way to open the sales conversation.
My suggestion is to focus on objective of the meeting first, get down to business quickly, and when you’re finished, initiate personal conversation.
Looking for a keynote speaker for an upcoming sales meeting or conference? I deliver high-energy, impactful presentations that get results. Here is a video clip of one of my presentations. Call me if you think I can help: 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca.