Banter – is it really the sure way of gaining genuine rapport with a prospect?

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When I am working with sales execs and I mention the importance of gaining rapport, inevitably the response is, ‘of course, it’s the first thing I do with every prospect, I start with a bit of banter and this warms the prospect up before I begin my pitch’.

We all know that people like people that are like themselves and that the first 30 seconds is very important in making that all important first impression. However, the problem with the banter approach is that the sales execs are assuming that the prospect is like them. The jokey response that is seen as ‘gaining rapport’ is actually often the prospect being polite. This goes completely over the head of the sales person. The result is that when the sales executive leaves and boasts that he and prospect got on like a ‘house on fire’ , but cannot understand why they are no longer taking his calls  is because,  in truth its more likely they could not wait to see the back of them. Of course this is not always the case and sometimes this approach works, however imagine the success that could be achieved if you could achieve genuine rapport with each prospect.

Words make up only 7% of communication between two people, 55% is physiology and 38% is the tone of voice used.  Gaining real rapport means that we have to match the prospect in every aspects of communication. A reliance purely on words is going to alienate a lot of people, especially if you use the wrong language.

So for a moment let’s forget words, we will come back to them later. As 55% of communication is through physiology, this is where you should concentrate on most during the first few moments of a meeting. There are two specific techniques for this: matching and mirroring. Matching is exactly what it says; you match their movements subtly a few seconds after they have moved. First you start by sitting the way they sit, e.g. if they sit back in the chair, sit back in the chair, if they then lean forward, lean forward with them.  Whilst you are doing this take care to notice their breathing and match that as well. Mirroring is the opposite, if they cross their left leg, you cross your right leg and so on, mirroring can be slightly more subtle than matching.

 ‘But surely they will notice this’ I hear you shout, ‘it seems so unnatural’. Actually it is very natural and they won’t notice, well not unless you are very clumsy and make it very awkward and obvious movements. Next time you are out with friends or your wife/husband take a few moments to notice – you will be doing exactly this, but none of you will notice it, because you are all genuinely in rapport.

The second thing to match is tone of voice. Do they speak quickly, with high pitch or slowly with a deep pitch? Obviously do not try to mimic them, then you will be in trouble, but just talk at the same speed and same pitch – you will be surprised at the results this brings (especially if you are on the telephone – cold calling or trying to get an appointment).

And finally…the words. Every person has a preferred Representational System, that is whether they are visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic (how they feel). Through careful listening you can pick up what these are e.g. if the prospect says when you meet ‘ Glad to SEE you’ then it is more likely that he/she is more visually organised, and you could respond ‘well thank you for SEEING me,  I am LOOKING forward to SHOWING what we have to offer.’ If they said ‘Welcome, I look forward to HEARING what you have to say to me today, then they are likely to be more auditory – so respond with, ‘ Thank you it SOUNDS like you will be interested in what I have to TELL you and I know you will like what you HEAR’.  On the other hand, Kinaesthetic people will say things like, MAKE, and FEEL. For example, no matter how much you try and convince a Kinaesthetic person to imagine how a product will look in their business, unless they FEEL it’s right for them they won’t buy. Throughout your presentation you should focus on using words that match these visual indicators. This sounds simplistic, but actually getting it right takes a lot of practice and sensitive listening to your prospects, but again if used appropriately it will bring amazing results and deal-winning rapport.

So back to the banter…. It can be a very good tool to break the ice, and if you use it in the context of the overall communication process then you can become an expert communicator and win more business. The secret though it to use the right banter with the right prospect at the right time.