Building Rapport:  Don’t!

by Jacques Werth, Founder of High Probability Selling.  © 2007

After 32 years in sales, sales management and owning several businesses, in 1987 I decided to retire.  Six months later, I was bored with traveling and looking for things to do with my time.  So, I got into the insurance business, specializing in group benefits.

My first appointment was with the owner of a very large distributor of home appliances.  As soon as we met, I conducted a Trust and Respect Inquiry with him, and within twenty minutes we had developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Next, we reviewed the prospecting call I had made to him.  He told me that before we discussed employee benefits, he wanted to buy Key Man Insurance on three of his senior managers.  He asked me if I could provide it.

I told him that I was licensed to sell life insurance, but did not know much about using it for business purposes.  However, I offered to have an expert in business life insurance work up a proposal, and disclosed that I would split my commission with the expert.  He said that would be fine.  He stipulated that he only wanted to buy Term Life insurance.

I found an expert and gave him all of the information he needed to research the best term life products for the client’s company.  He told me to make an appointment with the client for a week later to present the proposal, and I did.

On the way to meet the client, we agreed that he would present the proposal and answer any questions, and I would handle the sale.

Upon being shown into the owner’s office, I introduced the expert.  He greeted the client with a big smile and a firm handshake.  He then admired the client’s big, beautiful office and said, “My god, is that a Blue Marlin?” while pointing to the very big stuffed fish hanging on the wall.  “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.  Did you break the record?”

The client responded, “Forget the damn fish and get down to business!”

[This is an example of how most salespeople attempt to “build rapport.” This true anecdote also illustrates how most prospects feel about a salesperson who is attempting to “build rapport” with them. What most salespeople do produces an effect that is the opposite of rapport. They create distrust, a lack of respect and sale resistance. In reality, typical ‘rapport-building’ loses far more sales than it gains.]

Getting back to business, the expert opened his attaché case and pulled out a batch of papers.  “I prepared two sets of quotes,” he said.  The first set is for Permanent Life insurance, which is what you really need, and the other set is for the Term Life that you think you need.”

The client turned to me and said, “Jacques, where did you find this jerk?  He may know something about insurance, but I want him out of here now.  If you want to bring someone back who can follow instructions, I’ll give you one more chance.”

I quickly found another business life insurance expert.  I learned that it is called “Advanced Underwriting.”  He told me that he was not good at selling, and he appreciated the opportunity to share in my commission.  He agreed that I would present the proposals and answer the client’s questions.  He would only speak if I made a mistake, or if I asked him a question.

A week later, I brought him to visit the client, and we walked out with three Term Life applications.  Before long, I also sold them a full range of employee benefits insurance and a 401K plan.  Thereafter, my fast growing independent agency kept that advanced underwriting guy busy.

Why did the prospect give me a second chance?

I developed a relationship of Mutual Trust and Respect with the prospect within the first twenty minutes of meeting him.  Mutual Trust and Mutual Respect are the two most important buying decision factors for over 80% of all prospects.

Whether or not prospects like you is important to only 3% of all prospects.  Yet, most salespeople spend a lot of time and effort attempting to build rapport and get prospects to like them.  Even if they could accomplish that, it would not increase their closing rates much.

That is just one of the misconceptions that most salespeople have about how to sell.

Obviously, most salespeople do not know how to sell very well.  It is obvious because the majority of new salespeople fail.  And, most veteran salespeople are struggling to make a decent living.  All the while, the top 1% of salespeople are earning more than the average Fortune 500 CEO.

Most top salespeople know which sales techniques have the Highest Probability of resulting in closed sales.  Most of them also know precisely when, and how, to apply each of those High Probability Selling techniques in a simple linear sales process.  Some top salespeople learned to sell the hard way – in the school of hard knocks.  Others paid the tuition to learn how, quickly.  That’s the easy way.

My (biased) opinion is that the easy way is far less risky and less expensive.  Can you afford not to sell like the top salespeople?  Can you afford not to learn how – the easy way?