What’s one sure-fire way to improve sales productivity? Work on developing a rapport with your prospective buyers. Yes, you want your clients to like you, but that’s not necessarily what rapport means. As Anthony Iannarino explains it on The Sales Blog: “Rapport isn’t ‘I like you.’ Rapport is ‘I am like you.’” This word implies a mutual understanding and an ease of communication. If that doesn’t sound like the typical relationship your salespeople have with potential clients, they may need to work on developing empathy. There are several steps that go into developing this kind of trusting relationship. What Does Your Customer Want? With the customer research tools available today, it’s easy to discover what your customer needs. Take a look at some big data analytics and determine what’s happening out there in the potential client’s market. What are the big events and potential problems? Part of being a good resource for clients is having an in-depth understanding of what they do. Trust Your Customer It’s important to have some faith in your potential client. Salespeople can be often be condescending when discussing customers, but this is exactly the wrong kind of attitude to have. Often, sales reps have a low opinion of clients, believing that they lie or they’re uninformed. These preconceptions have a major impact on how salespeople interact with potential clients one on one, according to Dave Brock for his Partners in Excellence blog. In order to be a great salesperson, you have to understand that client buyers are people who make mistakes. They may not tell you the truth every time, however, this is likely because they’re misinformed, not because they’re trying to mislead you. To be a trusted resource, you have to be able to connect with these individuals as people, not just buyers. Be a Good Listener So, you have the background details that you got from your customer intelligence research. That’s great, but these numbers don’t always tell the whole story. You need a real person to fill in the blanks. Don’t assume you know everything about your customer’s market. Use the data you do know to ask pointed questions. Listening to the answers is what will earn you trust, not telling your potential client something they already know. Use their answers to guide the conversation. Meet Them on Their Turf Let your potential client determine how you will communicate. This doesn’t just mean the channel, which you should also take into consideration. It means their conversational style, says Selling Power. Do they like to start out a conversation with small talk, or get right into the meat of things? Are they laid back or chatty? Matching their energy is another good way to build rapport. Smile and Be Funny When it comes to customer service, smiling is one of the oldest rules in the book. While business-to-business often seems radically different from say, a restaurant, some parts are still the same. To a certain extent, people are programmed to mirror the emotions we see in others. Your smiling face should be the first thing the prospect sees. You don’t have to grin like an idiot the entire time, just be happy to see them. Humor is also a good icebreaker. Don’t go overboard with the knock-knock jokes, but be affable. Being self-effacing also portrays some vulnerability, which goes a long way in establishing rapport, according to Iannarino. With a little empathy, you can gain the trust of your prospects, paving the way towards a mutually beneficial relationship. It all starts with building rapport.