Wednesday, July 7, 2010

You Must Create Instant Rapport With A Prospect – Part 1

Why is quickly obtaining a connection with the prospect is so important?

It isn’t because you want them to like you. The real reason is because until rapport develops they aren’t engaged and don’t really hear what you are saying. Instead, their mind will still be wandering; little thoughts of other things they need to do pop up, doubts whether the meeting with you will be a waste of time appear, etc.

Rapport also leads to creation of other positive feelings – an obvious example is trust – but that will come later. First they need to hear what you are saying.

Once a connection is formed, they begin to listen, then become engaged in the discussion, and from that point onward you have the opportunity to persuade them. The sooner you can get them to that point, the better.

There are two phases to creation of rapport. The first one occurs in those initial seconds when you first meet with the prospect … when you both first see each other and only visual cues are processed.

Think about your own experiences. For example, you are at a party and a friend points out someone across the room. They say, “That’s Jackie. She’s the one dating Harold.” You have never met Jackie in your life … never even seen her, but based upon what she’s wearing, her age, how her hair looks, her height and weight and apparent physical condition, how she is standing, holding her drink and gesturing, you have already formed your first impression.

An hour later another friend asks, “What do you think about Jackie, Harold’s new girl fiend?” If you are like me, you’ll probably respond something like, “She looks OK,” or “I don’t know. She looks a lot classier than him. I wonder what she sees?” The point is, we’ve already formed an initial opinion, even though we’ve never even talked with Jackie and don’t know anything about her.

Why does this happen? Why don’t we reserve judgment? Why don’t we instead respond, “I really don’t know. I haven’t met her.”

It is because Jackie has, in fact, communicated with you. To explain: an equation that is frequently quoted in articles about body language is that interpersonal communication is comprised of approximately 7% of what is said, while 93% is made up of non-verbal cues. You looked at Jackie and based solely upon visual cues – many of which she deliberately selected when she decided what to wear, how to fix her hair, etc. – formed a first impression of her. And, it wasn’t just you. Everyone at the party did exactly the same thing.

This is what your prospect is processing when they first see you. As we discussed above, it is very important that they arrive at a positive first impression. The good news is you have it in your power to avoid the negative and emphasize the positive. Let’s look at some actions you can take to accentuate the positive.

Show up on time. Good heavens, does anything say, “You’re not important” more than being late? If you are going to be late, call the prospect and tell them you’re stuck on the interstate or whatever. If you give them an estimate for your arrival, say ten minutes, make sure you will arrive very closely to that estimate.

Dress appropriately and be well groomed. With males, there are four basic levels of dress. The first is blue collar – jeans, tennis/casual shoes and shirt. The second is business casual – Dockers or slacks, casual/nice shoes and a nice shirt. The next level is still business casual, but probably has a tie and a sport coat. Finally, we arrive at formal business attire, which is a suit and tie. The basic rule is to be at the prospect’s level or one above. Never below, because the prospect wants to believe he or she is choosing a winner, a professional, someone who is respected within the accounting community, and you don’t want them to find reason to question your level against that standard. Ladies, I won’t pretend to describe the feminine equivalents, but you fight this battle all the time and don’t need any wardrobe tips from me.

Have nice accessories. Short story: the production of a salesman (“Ray”) I hired many years ago fell off rapidly. We talked and everything he was doing seemed to be good, but it didn’t get any better. I scheduled a day we could spend together meeting some new opportunities. When Ray and I met that morning for breakfast, one look said it all. His elderly grandfather, a retired lawyer, had died and Ray had inherited the grandfather’s briefcase. It obviously had great sentimental value, but looked like it barely survived the apocalypse. I didn’t say anything. We went to the first meeting to meet Ned, the prospect. As Ray withdrew documents, etc., Ned’s eyes kept darting over to the briefcase. No sale. For the rest of the day I made Ray to use my briefcase. He did great. Problem solved.

The briefcase’s shabby appearance created a conflict within Ned’s mind. I suspect the fatal blow was a suspicion that Ray wasn’t successful and couldn’t afford something better. No one wants to buy from a failure. From the Ned’s perspective, he concluded that if he was unsure he wouldn’t buy.

Good posture has been validated by extensive research to identify you as someone who is credible, with something to say that is worth hearing. If you are directed to a chair, sit straight in the waiting room or lobby, face the door where you think your prospect will appear and avoid any appearance of slouching or excessive casualness. When you arise, stand tall, pull your rib cage up, flex your knees and look directly at your prospect’s eyes for at least three seconds (but no more than about five – that can be interpreted as excessive aggressiveness). Research has revealed these elements are the most impactful when a first impression is being formed.

Next post we’ll look at the moments right after the “visual only” phase of forming a first impression.


Ian Brodie said...

Great post Craig. However the 93% is nonverbal stat is nonsense. Massive misinterpretation of research by Albert Mehrabian. He himself has been dismayed by how much his research has been misquoted and applied to mean things it was never meant to apply to.

If you'll forgive the link, I wrote about this myth about 93% being nonverbal here:


GSH said...

Important, timely, and well said Craig.

There’s a cultural crisis of non-engagement, sales and service included. People talk past each other without listening. People ask, “How are you today?” without waiting for the answer. “Pause” in a script has become time to take a breather instead of an opportunity for the prospect to digest while you "listen" to their responses.

Without an authentic introduction and warm-up, there is no rapport. Without rapport, business dealings might as well be digital.

Looking forwarded to part II.
Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated with automated emails.

Craig said...

Hi Ian...
I was trying to emphasize the importance of appearance in the first few moments of introduction. After that, I believe as the meeting progresses the equation tilts more and more toward what is being said and less upon visual cues.

Lee Frederiksen said...

Ian's point is a good correction, but I think your overriding message is correct. Initial appearance is very important. We seem to accept the notion that it matters for your website but forget it also applies to your person. Nice post...lwf

GSH said...

Would it not be fair to say that not interacting with your commenter’s contradicts the point of your article?

Craig Weeks said...

Point taken, GSH.
The great majority of response I get to this blog is via email directed to me personally. Since it usually relates to the sender's situation specifically, I respond to them directly.

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