Over the years I have developed some concepts that have enabled me to be successful in the sales field as a sales person, sales leader and as an entrepreneur. One concept that I often write about is my personal principle, the “Rule of Thirds".
The “Rule of Thirds” is a rule of thumb that I teach my sales people and that I use on a daily basis as I engage with clients and prospects alike.
The concept is very simple: break your expected time during a sales meeting or sales call into thirds. Each third of the meeting has a specific goal. The first third of the meeting should be used to focus on getting to know the people you are meeting with and to build rapport with each of them.
1st Third: Build rapport
It is well-documented that people prefer to do business with people they like. So, as a professional salesperson it is your responsibility to put your best foot forward with your prospects and clients and, simply... be likable. You must help your prospect understand who you are as a person.
Daniel Newman wrote a simple but thoughtful article called “12 Most Necessary Traits to Sell More You” where he highlighted the 12 most important actions we must take to sell ourselves. The idea of selling yourself is very close to the concept of rapport-building. At the end of the day, rapport-building comes down to three simple steps:
Be genuine and authentic
People can see a fake person a mile away. You are not fooling anyone. If, by the way, you are not a likable person and don’t aspire to be, find a new profession.
Make it about them
Focus on the other people in the room. Ask them thoughtful questions about themselves. You must be tuned-in and develop a feel for how you can guide the conversation to a deeper, more personal level. Watch or listen for clues to indicate how comfortable your prospects are with the conversation. Making people uneasy or probing too far is counterproductive to rapport-building.
Find the common ground
As you begin to uncover more information about your prospects, you should be looking for common ground that will serve as the basis for future conversations. Did you go to the same school? Have you worked for the same company in the past? Do you both have kids the same age? Do you share a favorite team? Finding an anchor in common ground will allow you to pick up your next conversation on a personal note before moving on to business. This is a huge advantage.
In short, building a personal connection is essential to a productive sales meeting with a new prospect.
Take the time during the first third of your meeting to do this and you will improve your chances of winning business, keep business with the client longer, and enjoy more testimonials and referrals than those sales people who jump right to the sales agenda.
Don’t make this mistake - take time to invest in building rapport.
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