Sales professionals have been selling over the phone and video for years. So why does it feel like we’ve entered a new age of sales?
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the game for virtually every business in early 2020. But the reality is traditional rapport in sales began to shift even before the pandemic began, with reports showing buyers only spent about 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers.
Buyers are more informed, and Zoom-fatigued, than ever before. So as the modern sales role changes, the role of rapport in sales must too.
Related community discussion: Sick of Zoom meetings? What experience are you looking for?
Defining what we mean by “rapport” in sales
Rapport refers to an established relationship based on mutual trust and understanding. In sales, having good rapport means a healthy professional relationship between sellers and buyers as they work toward a common goal – the discovery, evaluation, and purchase of a solution.
Account executives and SDRs are often the ones responsible for establishing a positive rapport with a buyer. Mutual trust is the goal, and it’s on the seller to build that rapport through demonstrating trust and value.
Are we aligned? Great. Now to the big question:
Is rapport in sales really dead?
Historically, sales reps built rapport through offline, casual conversations about anything from a buyer’s favorite baseball team to shared interest in Japanese cuisine to a mutual friend in the Denver Toast Masters’ club — all those little human connections that made up our lives in the pre-information age.
Nowadays, buyers have more options and information is readily available. No longer will sports banter cover up the fact that a particular seller’s product doesn’t offer the same level of ROI as their competitor’s solution. The newest, most valuable form of rapport increases credibility and requires proof or relevance.
The takeaway: Reps need to give the buyer the information they request, but how they deliver the information is the new way to build rapport.
6 ways to demonstrate value to buyers and build positive rapport
Here are 6 ways to build rapport and demonstrate value in a remote selling environment:
1. Personalize outreach to make an impact
Personalization works when it shows how you, the seller, have taken the time to understand and communicate the buyer’s pain points specifically and clearly.
Buyers are savvy: Most can see the difference between a sales email crafted after some quick LinkedIn research versus an email from someone who genuinely believe they’re offering a solution. People only spend an average of 10 seconds reading an email from a brand. So as a sales rep, use personalization to help the buyer see that booking time on your calendar is worth it.
Personalization tips and takeaways
A few ways you can boost your personalized outreach include:
- Use the prospect’s first name, and use text to show you did your research.
- Present a solution to demonstrate value.
- Know your prospect’s current tech stack and create a customized video to explain how your proposed solution will add value or increase effectiveness of their tools.
- Test out a prospect’s tool via free trial and screen-record an observation within their platform, then send it to them with a short note about your insights and ideas.
- Host a discovery call, then add customized post-meeting notes to a case study and send it as meeting follow-up.
Are you an Outreach user? Read: How to Do Personalization at Scale with Outreach
Bonus: Study “first principles thinking” to learn how to get to the root of a prospect’s pain points without taking any of their time to ask about it.
2. Make the most of your sales collateral
Personalization shouldn’t end with outreach. After securing a meeting with a qualified prospect, use your sales collateral to make the case for your solution.
Use pre-meeting agendas
Start by sending a pre-meeting agenda. A pre-meeting agenda is an outline of what you, the sales rep, aim to cover in the first meeting with a potential buyer. Pre-meeting agendas establish a trusting relationship with your prospect by:
- Setting the tone for your conversation
- Introducing your business and its value proposition
- Showing your willingness to go the extra mile to improve the buyer’s experience
- Demonstrating professionalism through consistent branding and attention to detail
- Showing you value the buyer’s time
Overall, a pre-meeting agenda shows your buyer that you understand and care about their specific needs.
Related community discussion: We are looking to refresh our discovery call agenda…
Show the value of yourself and your product through branding
A visual brand identity managed consistently across multiple pieces of sales collateral demonstrates professionalism and will make your engagements with the buyer more memorable.
In a remote sales process, it’s not only important to convey professionalism — it’s also important to make the buyer-seller engagement enjoyable.
Examples of sales collateral that showcase you and your brand include:
- Video introductions
- Value proposition documentation
- Pitch decks
- Solution mock-ups
- Post-meeting notes and recordings
- Screen-recorded demonstrations
- Case studies and client testimonials
If you’re going to incorporate visual elements of your brand, such as logos, fonts, and colors, it’s important that your messaging across media and every piece of collateral you share with the buyer is consistent. If your business recently changed its logo, for example, it’s important to update everything from your pitch deck to your final contract with that new logo.
On the surface, brand identity might not make or break a deal, but small investments in professionalism and professional presentation add up over time. It also gives your brand visuals more credibility and authority down the road with future buyers.
Not sure what your brand colors or logo are? Sync with your marketing team — they’ll hook you up.
3. Demonstrate value (show, don’t tell)
In addition to providing quality information, ask quality questions that show your client you understand their business, team’s needs, and company objectives.
Example questions you can ask to demonstrate your value:
- “Considering your company’s recent announcement about its Salesforce integration focus and recruitment efforts for Alliance Managers, is there any way we can help enable your sales reps and improve how they sell to these clients?”
- “You’re a family-run business. How does this influence the company values and how your team is selling today?”
- “How has the pivot from sales to marketing-led growth influenced alignment and collaboration between your sales and marketing teams?”
- “You mentioned that your development team is implementing a custom ERP system. What does their timeline look like over the next 6-9 months, and does the team have bandwidth to consider implementing another tool?”
4. Put care into your demo
The infamous product demo is not expected to go out of style anytime soon. In fact, how you conduct product demonstrations is even more important than ever.
Demo techniques to wow buyers and build rapport and credibility:
- Use notes from previous discussions to customize your demonstration to mimic the client’s processes and priorities.
- Repeat statements that the client previously made throughout the demo to highlight how the product adds value.
- Custom-brand the demonstration using materials provided by your client so that they can visualize their own team using the tool.
- Don’t show features or functionalities that aren’t relevant to your client’s case.
- Trim down presentation decks and spend more time showing proofs of concept in a working platform.
This not only helps build rapport, but will prove to your buyer that your solution is right for them.
5. Follow up the right way after your meeting
Post-meeting follow-up is extremely important for three reasons: It builds momentum, it builds rapport, and it ensures the entire buying team has quality, accurate information to evaluate.
Tips to improve the quality of your post-meeting follow-up:
- Send marketing or sales collateral that is specific and relevant to the client’s use case.
- Include testimonials and references.
- Customize the meeting summaries and attach meeting recordings.
- Always add video content whether it be a screen-recorded snippet, custom explainer video, or a pre-recorded marketing video. Use of video increases engagement by 41% on average.
- Always include a CTA in your follow-up, such as your meeting link to book additional technical meetings.
Here’s one example of an engaging, informative meeting follow-up:
Digital sales room tools help sales reps establish trust by providing a unique environment to create and update important sales collateral.
6. Optimize your sales tech stack
There’s no getting around it: An efficient tech stack frees up your time as a sales professional to create meaningful, personal engagements with your buyer. It demonstrates your ability to be organized, thoughtful, and deliberate with your communication throughout the sales process.
What does streamlining a tech stack look like? It means avoiding tool overkill and saving yourself time by investing in automation tools and integrations. If your tools aren’t working together, they aren’t working for you. If the machine can do it better, let it. You should focus on what you do best.
A streamlined sales tech stack also means streamlined communication, both internally and externally. When your outreach and deal management tools integrate with your CRM, for example, you gain insight into when and how to adapt your communication style according to the buyers’ unique behaviors and communication preferences.
When a buyer feels like the seller understands their communication preferences, the relationship grows stronger and becomes effortless. Imagine the buyer viewing a specific content piece about the product’s API, and within minutes, the AE delivers a custom video from the solutions engineer which addresses the topic in further detail.
Remember, the onus is on you to establish that mutual feeling of trust. The more organized and proactive you are as a sales professional, the easier it will be to demonstrate your competence and professionalism.
Next steps: Succeed in the new world of selling
Fortunately, rapport in sales isn’t really dead. It just looks different. Modern buyers don’t just want someone they can go out to dinner with after the pitch meeting. They want to see the value of the product or service you’re selling, and know that you as a seller have their best interests in mind.
To move the needle, adapt your sales approach to fit your client’s unique needs and communication preferences. Build trust by asking quality questions and doing research so that you can prove why your solution will make a real impact. All in all, make the time your clients spend with you worthwhile. Then, it doesn’t matter how or where you sell — you’ll still build rapport.
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2022