Virtual meetings had been essential upon Covid to build sales relationships. As the government establishes stay at home orders and the concern of being infected. Sales people turn to platforms such as Google meets and Zoom to facilitate meetings and relationship building. Which differ massively from face to face interaction. Rapport building is the base of a harmonious and understanding relationship. It is about creating a relationship with others on the basis of understanding and trust beyond the surface level. Rapport can be developed through customer-centric attitude along with collaborative and responsive actions. Resulting with the client feeling that they had been understood, have similarities with the sales people and is appreciated as an individual. In turn, leading to a higher likelihood of a collaboration and possible long term business relationship.
This white paper will begin by discussing a phenomenon coined as the “zoom fatigue” related to the consistent attendance of virtual meeting platforms. It focuses on how sales people can prepare before the meeting to build rapport and approaches to rapport building during the discussion.
The term “Zoom fatigue” describes the feeling of exhaustion from overusing virtual platforms. This occurs for several reasons. In physical interactions, we take in nonverbal cues such as gestures, tone of voice, proxemics and haptics like handshakes or a hug. All of these can be challenging when watching a small tablet screen or monitor with people’s cameras placed at different angles and their gestures hidden. Worst, communication is not always synchronous. There may be a slight delay between when the speaker completes an action and when the participant sees the action. As well as navigating the interface to raise a hand, type a comment and unmute before speaking while keeping track of the current conversation. Simply put, virtual meetings aren't a familiar way many are used to communicate.
To combat zoom fatigue, avoid scheduling too many meetings and allowing them to run for too long. Set meetings with a purpose, trim the agenda down to what is important and invite only those that need the meeting. Do not feel obligated to conduct everything over a zoom meeting, drop the idea or announcement through phone calls and emails when appropriate.
Rapport Build Preparation
Rapport building emphasizes development of an in-depth interpersonal communication that includes the ability to be empathic, listen and ask questions to the client. The first step in the process is to effectively prepare before the meeting begins.
Capture insights and mentally prepare
Knowing the client’s background is the critical first step for establishing a relationship with the individual. Review and collect background information of the client’s business, organization and as an individual. Study their interaction styles online and find out their areas of interest and expertise. In addition, mentally prepare by developing a focused and confident mindset before the meeting. Ask oneself for motives. Why is this case interesting and what is the ideal result of the meeting?
Reserve time for an introduction
Allocate time in the beginning of the meeting for some kind of an “introduction. Make participants feel comfortable by greeting them and half small talks. The introduction is also a good time to let attendees know of how they will participate in the meeting, such as being called on periodically to share experiences or perform activities. As well, establish a rapport through conversations that if possible, be integrated into the speaking points.
Share the agenda before the meeting
Sharing agenda can help participants feel more relaxed knowing what the meeting will hold, preparing them for a self introduction prior to the meeting. Moreover, alert the participants of what technology will be used. This way, participants can test beforehand of their camera, microphone sound quality and how they will call in. When speaking with someone abroad, make the access easy by doing the math and schedule according to the participant’s time zoom. If the video will be on, included in the agenda if necessary the instructions for how they can turn their camera on. Keeping cameras on makes a meeting feel more personal. The participants feel a greater sense of trust seeing a real person, leading to more engagement.
Start and end meetings according to schedule. Log into a meeting a few minutes early to solve any connection issues or problems with the meeting link, meeting IDs and passwords. When participants join, set up fun polls or starter questions on the screen for engagement, getting the conversation to follow from the start.
Set an example introduction
A discussion on appropriate social and professional topics is a nice way to begin a meeting, especially when waiting for more to join. Go first and set the tone of the introduction. Go beyond simply sharing names and rolls and encourage others to follow suit. Ask participants to share their weekends plans or what had occurred in the passing holiday as they introduce themselves. Remember though to consider the number of attendees. Sometimes there isn’t enough time for everyone to introduce themselves. Be mindful not to lose participant’s attention and interest to other tasks like email and web browsing. The tempo for most virtual meetings tends to be faster than that of a face to face one.
Rapport building is the first step in developing a new relationship. A prerequisite for trust, customer loyalty and engagement, which ultimately leads to a long-term business relationship.
Mirroring is a term that describes the situation where people in rapport start to act the same way. They will nod at the same time, delivering similar energy level and non verbal cues. All indicators that they trust each other, which is the foundation of a quality relationship that land in sales. However, rapport cannot be faked. Deliberately mirroring and matching a person can backfire with the client feeling deceived, making it unlikely to close a deal. It is also important to appear original and genuine to avoid being associated with a standardized “stereotypical” salesperson, characterized by being pushy or aggressive. To be more approachable, sometimes an informal, relaxed approach works better.
Listen and Observe
The best way to get rapport is to really listen and observe, familiarize oneself with the prospect. Engage in small, non-business conversations on shared interest, such as the stock market, that can get the conversation started for later. Hear what the prospect has to say and how they are saying it. Sensing the prospect’s communication style and adapt accordingly. Some behaviour to look for includes the speed, their willingness to control, knowledge base, extroversation, use of humor, emotional status, and decision making style.
Show understanding and general interest of the prospect both personally and professionally. Give verbal indications such as “this is a nice idea”, “this must have been challenging” to show empathy with their feelings and interest in what they have to say. Have the verbal implications be aligned with no verbal cues through eye contact, nodding, smiling and authentic facial expressions. It is good practice to summarize and paraphrase back to verify your understanding. After all, ensuring what you heard is correct is important when crafting a solution.
Follow up with questions
Follow up and ask questions for a deeper understanding of the situation based on what the prospect had discussed. Speak their language. Use the same terminology as the prospect and talk informally if that is how the prospect approaches the meeting. For instance, if the prospect mentions that “I can see a time when the staff have good time management”, the response could be something like “ Tell me more about how things will look when tasks are completed on time?”. And if they indicate that he or she is genuinely interested to move forward, the response could be to ask more about how they feel.
While sales people generally know the importance of being customer oriented and following suit with the client’s style and interest. However. Some salespeople fall back into their routine, preplanned agendas and scripts. Thus missing the opportunity to build rapport.
Facilitate positive feelings
Many challenges arise in new client acquisition. As mentioned previously, it is important for salespeople to develop a confident and inspiring mindset prior to the meeting. Unfortunately, this may not be the case of the client. They may not be willing to come to the meeting in the first place, and had only come because it was asked by their manager or felt that it is part of their responsibilities to do so. Unmotivated, they do not focus on the meeting but rather are occupied with other tasks at hand. Such situations require the sales people to react immediately and intervene to the client's absence and disconnection. Potential solutions include asking for a short increment of their time to explain or proceed with in-depth questions to draw their attention. If occurred in the beginning, humorous ice breakers and polls can also be considered.
Additionally, the circumstances may not be favorable. The client is questionable about the likelihood of a solution, leading to a very negative atmosphere. The negative issues need to be addressed but at the same time skillfully turn the tide. Mention the positive signs and remove the negative feelings to a positive outcome. Establish the purpose of the meeting and optimism,
Rapport building is the base of a trustful relationship with the client. Many actions lead to rapport building. Other than preparatory actions, such as sharing agenda items, doing background research, can be done by the salesperson prior to the meeting. Others are accomplished together with the client, thus requiring the sales people to quickly adopt and communicate effectively. These include finding similarities, asking follow up questions and small talk engagement. Be proactive and stay relevant. Successful rapport fosters long term relationships and allows for minor communication mistakes later on.