Build Rapport to Navigate Enterprise Organizations
By Colleen Francis
You know the old adage about how it’s unwise to put all your eggs in one basket. That wisdom applies just as much to sales today. As you may have heard me say before, one is the most dangerous number in sales. You are at risk if all of your information or all of your business comes from a single point of contact.
To avoid this trap, you need to invest in developing a deeper rapport with more people across a broader range of businesses in your field. Rapport isn’t just idle chit-chat. It’s the hard-earned outcome of creating a sense of likeness between people, based on having an understanding of each other’s feelings, values or ideas.
As a seasoned sales professional, I learned how to sharpen my rapport-building skills, particularly when I was managing large, strategic accounts such as Exxon, Microsoft, and some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. In this article, I’m going to share with you what I know about what you can do to accomplish that task, so you can meet and exceed your sales targets by selling more to more people in less time.
Adapt to different levels while obtaining referrals
As a sales executive or a business owner who is selling to large organizations, you know that there are different levels of decision makers in every company. You must adapt your rapport-building approach accordingly. That’s not to say that you should overlook junior-level staff or project managers. In fact, to be effective, your efforts need to be from the bottom-up and the top-down at the same time.
Obtaining referrals is a key objective to your rapport-building efforts. And referrals hinge on having conversations that yield the information you need to advance. The right referrals are going to unlock doors and give you the fastest, upward-pointing track to the pinnacle of a company’s hierarchy. Finding the right referral is not easy, let’s be clear about that! The conversations you have with people have to be focused on moving you up rather than down. Because if you’re moved down, there’s a risk you might not be able to get back up again.
Keeping it simple and visual
If you were on a long hike on a new trail, you’d likely consult a map, compass or GPS to establish and maintain your bearings. Similarly, your journey through a large-sized organization will earn better results if you adopt this mindset. When it comes to rapport building, knowing where you are in an organization is determined by whether you know the people around you.
Summarize all the information you need on a single sheet of paper. Think of it as your personal rapport map. Make it visible and keep it simple. Just vital details, such as who is the Chief Financial Officer, who are the project managers, who is responsible for technical issues, marketing or other functions specific to the client’s organization.
Just as important, identify who in the organization uses your product/service. If there are existing customers in there who are already passionate supporters of who you are and what you are selling, make sure you list them, too. These people are vital. Not only do they want to see you succeed, they often can provide you with valuable insight and advice to help you achieve your goal.
The goal of this exercise is that you create a visual representation of how strongly positioned you are inside the company. Go another step further. For each person on your personal rapport map, rank your connection on a scale of one to ten. If, for example, you were a godparent to one of their children, then it would be a ten. If, on the other hand, it was a new buyer with no previous history, then it would be a zero.
Scale it beyond personal
When you have established rapport at a personal level with someone, you can feel comfortable enough to call them up and invite them out for drinks. That’s a great thing to achieve, but you also need to scale that sense of rapport beyond personal. How well does the company know your business? Answering that question, you may discover that you have some great personal relationship with people who don’t have strong rapport with your product or your business.
As a sales trainer and coach, I’ve worked with clients who struggle with this problem quite often. When one salesperson moves from one firm to another, they take their entire customer base with them because the seller’s client base have connected solely on a personal level, but never on a brand level. That can be really damaging to a company. So make it a practice in your sales team to include brand awareness as part of your rapport-building strategy.
Connect rapport with sales
How can you determine you’ve successfully established a broad base of rapport with a client’s company? If you can pick up the phone and call anyone in that organization and talk to anyone comfortably, then you’ve achieved a high level of rapport. If your personal rapport map shows that you have three people inside a company that you consider are repeat customers, and who gladly share knowledge with you, then you have a very good rapport. Those are two examples of the level of rapport that you need to aspire to attain.
Rapport building is an absolutely vital task. And I see a lot of companies who fail at this. They don’t look at a business holistically. Instead, they just focus on particular aspects of a business. Avoid that mistake! Invest in developing and improving your rapport and give your business the power of 20/20 vision.
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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