I recently saw a poster in a sporting goods store of the three stooges. Larry, Curly and Moe were slovenly dressed, holding their golf clubs and looking comfortably smug in each others presence. The title of the poster was…”Play Golf with Your Friends”. After a good chuckle, I was reminded of the truth in this statement. We tend to choose our friends and associates because of our perception of similarities with them.
Successful entrepreneurs understand the longevity of their enterprise depends on the relationship and bond that is built with clients, vendors and prospective customers. How do you make more sales, open more quality alliances, and have better customer relationships in the highly competitive construction business? Rapport is the key. Here are the five most effective ways to create instant and lasting rapport with anyone you meet.
- Express a genuine interest in the other person and in what is important to them. Ask leading questions to elicit details about their family, hobbies, career and business. Do this in an effort to find things in common. Use their personal name often. The sweetest sound to people is the sound of their own name. Make mental or written notes of the important events and activities in their life. Refer to these as often as possible. It is amazing how we all like to talk about ourselves. When you have an interest in others, they will open up and really tell you what they want in the business relationship. They will also be more apt to listen to what you want.
- Create physical rapport. Since we tend to relate more easily to those who are like us in some way, establishing physical rapport is a skill to develop. This is sometimes called matching, mirroring or parroting. Try to match the body language, vocabulary and tone of voice of the other person. This allows you to more readily understand and empathize with the person’s position. Why? Because, though we are all different, we are all similar in many aspects. We tend to have the same body language for similar emotions. If we adjust our body language slightly to match the other person, we begin to find likeness with the other person. This shows respect and adds validity to what the person is saying while allowing you experience some of the same reactions.
- Be an active listener. The best communicators in the world have the ability to listen at least four times more than they speak. Listening attentively enables you to discern what the real issues are by what is said and, in many cases, what is not said. Paraphrasing what has been said or asking re-direct questions validate that the other person has been heard. It usually leads to more clarity of what is really being said. Again, people love to talk more than they like to listen. The listener controls the conversation. Active listening helps you discern how the other person processes info rmation. Are they looking for visual aids? Will they learn more if you verbally describe your service or must they be motivated by the sense or feeling of what you have to offer? When these processing styles are determined, you then can present your case in a way that they will most likely appreciate.
- Seek agreement. It is easier to move from agreement to agreement than from disagreement to agreement. Search for any way to reach similarities. Use similar jargon. This shouldn’t be too difficult in the construction business. We all use similar phrases and terminology. Look for beliefs or opinions that you share in common. This is different from adopting another person’s beliefs. Rather, acknowledge the fundamental commonalties that may be woven in the other person’s opinion. On rare occasions, the agreement to disagree may build enough respect for opening a relationship. Seeking agreement requires flexibility. It means that you may need to adjust your perception of the situation in order to move to agreement. Agreement of even the minutest details provides a foundation for broader agreement.
- Be genuinely friendly. There is absolutely no substitute for being friendly. I mean being real. A smile and a pleasant disposition usually will diffuse any tense situation long before it happens. When it is real, it builds long term trust and credibility. After all, do you like to deal with people who are pleasant? That doesn’t mean you have to be the bubbly cheerleader type. A sincere smile, a warm handshake and good manners go a long way. Their impact is subtle and often remains long after you leave. Sometimes this is overlooked in the construction industry. Since that is the case, it is even more impressive when it is a part of your personal protocol.
In business, these strategies greatly enhance your ability to create strong bonds and relationships. Here is a secret. They are also a fantastic way to build better family and personal relationships. Selling your product or services in this day and age is about OPENING relationships rather than just closing deals. It is estimated that 80% of the time, we purchase the products we do based on how we feel about the person who is selling them to us. In service related industries, like construction, the percentage is even higher. In other words, do we like the other person? Is he trustworthy? Do his or her business and personal interests resemble ours? These are questions that most buyers ask themselves at a conscious or a sub conscious level. Simply stated, we buy much more often from those we like.
Until we have the honor to meet in person, remember, “Success is YOUR choice, choose well.”