In any business, the ability to build and maintain strong relationships with your colleagues and your customers is an important ingredient for success.
For many of us, the initial step of connecting with someone for the first time and establishing a level of rapport that leads to a worthwhile connection, is not just a little awkward, it’s downright daunting.
The good news is it doesn’t need to be. Here are 8 easy to master ways for building great rapport to quickly establish that sense of confidence that allows business relationships to progress.
From the second we lay our eyes on someone, we start to form an opinion about them and within around 4 seconds that opinion becomes our 1st impression. So, it stands to reason that we should make every effort to present in a positive way every time we meet someone new. Particularly if that person is someone we need to impress like a potential new client or employer.
Your reaction time and the behaviour you display will contribute enormously to that 1st impression and almost instantly provide them with a sense of how the interaction is likely to proceed. A positive 1st impression sets us up for what follows and paves the way to a far more worthwhile interaction... for both of you.
Most importantly, be mindful of the non-verbal elements. The way you look, the way you move and the way you sound are all part of a great greeting.
Here's a few key points to remember:
There are a couple of important ways using someone's name will impact the conversation you have with people.
Firstly, using their name instantly makes the conversation more personal. This helps nurture a sense of trust between you because using their name makes them feel they are known to you.
Secondly, the fact that you've bothered to listen and remember their name demonstrates your care and level of interest in them and again shows you are someone who can likely be trusted.
So how do you remember names? There are many different techniques and they all start with having the right intention. If you genuinely seek to discover and use peoples names, doing so becomes a priority for you and will quickly become a habit.
My recommended technique is to offer your name, ask for theirs and then repeat it 3 times. This is how it might sound in a conversation.
Approach with a smile, offer a handshake and as you do, say something like, "Hi, my name's JB. And yours is?" Let's pretend the other person then tells me his name is John. I would follow with, "John? Hi John. It's nice to meet you. How can I help you today John?" Now, when you see it written like this it may seem awkward but when you say it casually and in a friendly and welcoming manner, it actually sounds quite natural and will certainly show them you're tuned to them.
Remember this will only work if you have the firm intention to get and remember their name. If not, even though you might get very good at repeating names 3 times, if it becomes an automatic process without the required level of intent, you'll probably find yourself thinking about what you're planning to say next and not paying attention to their name.
I strongly encourage wearing a name badge. This makes it easier for the other person to use your name without having to remember it, which in turn makes the conversation feel even more like one they would have with a friend. If you start using their name but they can't remember yours, it may make them feel a little embarrassed or awkward.
Eye contact is the most effective way to demonstrate you are paying attention and listening. It is also generally accepted as a show of sincerity. If someone is continually looking away, it not only shows a low level of interest in the conversation, it can also appear they are not confident in what they are saying or have something to hide and can't 'face' you in case you see through their charade.
Continued eye contact shows conviction and honesty. Just be sure not to turn it into a staring competition. Pay attention to the level of eye contact you are getting from the other person. If they appear uncomfortable with constant eye contact, it may pay to follow their lead and alternate your focus between them and whatever it is you are talking about. A document, a product in your store, a menu or whatever is relevant to the moment is a great point of focus too and will still demonstrate you are engaged in the conversation.
Remember to maintain your smile throughout the conversation because most people will be sensitive to a shift in facial expression and may interpret that as a sign your level of enthusiasm has also changed.
Further to the importance of smiling, facial expressions and body language will greatly influence a person's sense of how engaged and interested you are in what they have to say.
Be sure to face people at all times when you're speaking to them. You don't want to appear like you're looking to make a quick get away.
Maintaining good posture is a show of confidence in yourself and your message.
Simple gestures like nodding and facial expressions show you have understood, are in agreement with them and demonstrates empathy and emotional connection.
People will generally open up and share more when they sense you are engaged by and interested in what they have to say. This can unlock information that may later prove valuable to you in your efforts to service their needs.
Like a bear to a honey pot, most people are drawn to people who make them feel good. Adding a little humour (if appropriate) to a conversation can help make most moments more enjoyable. The feel-good brain chemicals we know as Endorphins, will not only help people warm to you, they will also relieve tension and help them to remember both the moment and the details you've shared with them.
The trick to using this technique is to keep it casual and relaxed. We can all remember a time when we've heard someone step up to deliver a speech and try to open with a joke that fell flat and backfired. If it appears forced, it will appear fake and in doing so, possibly also undermine your credibility.
My final comment on humour is that you should definitely not take a one size fits all approach. When it comes to being appropriate, I always stick to being more conservative than too liberal. Take care you don't inadvertently offend anyone.
It is often suggested that people would prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. So my practice is to "Always put people before business". Doing so will reliably take you a long way towards being someone they want to do business with.
Appearing too eager to get to the business will often leave customers and clients feeling you're more interested in their money than you are in them.
It is excellent practice to take time to get to know people on a more personal level by opening up with non-business topics. These are typically everyday things like the weather, special holidays, trips away, current affairs or even sporting events.
Your curiosity in these other areas will not only demonstrate again that you are interested in them for more than just a pending transaction, it may also uncover common interests or lifestyle issues that will assist in cementing the business you are hoping to conduct.
One caution here though is to respect everybody has different boundaries. For some it may be privacy, for others it may be time.
So always tread carefully, read people's reactions and watch for signs of wanting the conversation to go in a different direction or at a different pace.
In any situation where we are seeking to gain a deeper understanding of how best to serve someone, skilfully crafted questions will enable you to open up and guide the conversation.
This proactive approach creates the ideal platform for delivering service that exceeds expectations. If all you do is answer their questions, there's a very good chance they might miss asking questions that may have provided the answers they needed but didn't know to ask.
For example, consider a scenario where a prospective buyer is asking questions about a piece of sophisticated technology that they know little about, other than what they may have learned through limited research prior to visiting the retail outlet. While they may feel confident they have asked all the right questions to confirm the product is right for them, there might be other aspects of that product that would not only greatly benefit them but also influence their decision, had they known to ask.
In this situation, the consultant or sales person should seek to understand more about that person in order to understand which features of the product will benefit them most to make sure they fully appreciate the personal value it has for them.
This more consultative approach will surely be appreciated by the customer who may have made a poor decision without the additional information and will establish a far greater level of credibility and trust.
And finally, my favourite tip for building rapport is this, if you want to make people feel good about you, make them feel good about themselves!
In simple terms, Validation is the art of getting to know things about people and then finding ways to compliment them.
Above all else, people just want to be appreciated and compliments are the easiest way to make people feel they are.
The Internet means many industries now compete in a global marketplace giving consumers enormous choice in where they source products from.
The strongest competitive advantage you can establish is to have trusting relationships with the consumers in your marketplace. However, that trust must be earned, so your team's ability to establish and nurture customer relationships is now more essential than ever.