Rapport vs Relevance: Should You Talk About the Fish on the Wall?


Successful sales professionals are masters of balance: they must maintain a careful balance between their company and their customers when it comes to things like costs, expectations, timelines, and most importantly, relationships.

When trying to develop a balanced sales relationship with a customer, where does one draw the line between business relevance and personal-ness? Is there such a thing as getting too personal?

The answer, as it is in so many situations, is that it depends. How personal a sales professional can be with his or her clients will always depend on the type of product being offered, the length of the sales cycle, the associated costs, and even the people involved.

When developing a personal rapport with new prospects or clients, don’t try to get too personal too quickly. To avoid coming across as insincere, steer clear of topics that have little to do with your product or their motivations for buying. Instead, begin by understanding the personal relevance of your product to the individual with whom you are working.

A common sales approach suggests asking a prospect, “What problems keep you up at night?” But this question can come across as prying and focuses too much on the negative. Instead, ask: “How can my product or service help you get that next raise/promotion/award?”

This question works for any product or service, and it opens many doors about how you and your customer can create a win-win scenario together. This is also a great way to understand more about your customer’s professional motivations, which can only improve a sales relationship.

For inside sales representatives who spend the majority of their time communicating with prospects via email or phone, a great opportunity for personal questions come at the beginning of any scheduled call. Think of those awkward moments at the very beginning of a conference call, before every invited party has joined. A few timely people hang on the line, breathing into silence; everyone fiddles idly as they wait for the rest of the call list to join.

As the lead sales person on any call, it is imperative that you join the call early, ensuring you are the first person on the phone. This not only communicates that you respect the time of your customers; it also allows you to take advantage of those few golden moments when there is no agenda dictating the conversation. As soon as someone else joins the call, use this downtime to ask personal questions that have nothing to do with the call but can allow you to get more personal.

Want a pro tip for your pre-conference call banter? Avoid asking filler questions about the weather or weekend plans, which are common and easy to brush off. Instead, ask something poignant and unexpected. Catching a customer off-guard with a question they don’t expect to hear but are happy to answer is your best bet for making the most of your three-minute window.

Here’s one to try on your next call: “I’ve had a tough morning and could use a little pick-me-up. What has been the best news you’ve heard so far today?”

This not only allows your customer to relive a positive memory, but enables them to pick what to share with you based on their level of comfort, as opposed to yours. The key to personalization is to let your customer lead the way.

Ready to stop guessing and start closing? Check out our free guide that walks you through how to sell to anyone, or click the button below to learn how the world’s leading personalized selling platform can help your business accelerate sales and increase revenue.

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