People want to buy from who they know, like, and trust. And the way to earn that status is to focus on building and maintaining relationships that go beyond the transactional nature of simply closing a deal.
Even in these “uncertain,” “unpredictable,” “new normal” times we’re living in, relationship building is critical to winning sales, however, the way we go about building relationships has changed.
That was then
A few months before the pandemic a typical sales experience meant you would show up early for a live meeting at the client’s office and the key contact would meet you and then walk you to a conference room where you would share your presentation. In some instances, you’d treat your client to coffee, a meal, or some other in-person interaction, which would deepen your connection and allow you to get to know each other better in a less formal setting.
Now, it’s not so simple
Meetings are all virtual. They start on time—or just after the scheduled time, once everyone has dialled in. Everyone says hello, and then people jump right into the business at hand. At the scheduled end time, people simply log off. There’s no friendly chit-chat.
The good news is you can still focus on relationship building even when your interactions are online. Here are four ways to do just that.
How to create time and space for rapport virtually
- Take the lead and focus on relationship-building from the start.
Despite the virtual nature of business these days, it is possible to make space for building rapport.
For instance, you have an hour-long meeting. You don’t want to lose the hour to small talk, but you do want to warm up the room before diving in. It’s as simple as starting with a check-in, “Before we get going, I just want to do a quick check-in to see how everyone is doing.”
This can make all the difference in creating time and space for rapport. Don’t discount the power of relationships and do give it the appropriate amount of time.
Whatever you do, people naturally tend to follow with similar commentary. If you want to break the ice a certain way, set the tone and go first.
- End your meeting with a casual discussion.
In face-to-face selling, some of the best conversations happen after the meeting has concluded. Allow that to happen virtually as well.
After the formal part of a one-on-one meeting ends, bring the call to a close-by refocusing on your rapport
You can also make a similar effort by acknowledging the situation we’re all in, as it’s almost guaranteed to garner a response: If it’s a group meeting, one-on-one rapport is a little more difficult to do. But it’s still easy enough to start a direct conversation as the meeting is winding down: “Sam, everyone is hopping off, but do you have another minute to chat?”
If Sam says yes, then you can ask your question once everyone is gone and see where it goes.
To do this, you might say something like:
“Sam, while we’ve been working on this project for four months, you and I have never had the chance to speak, except about the work we’re trying to sort out. I’d like to learn more about you and how you’d like to see all this go. Can we grab 15 minutes later this week?”
You might not be able to schedule every conversation, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get any meetings. Even if you don’t get the meeting, people will be impressed that you put in the effort and display an interest in wanting to get to know the team better.
- Setup short check-in meetings.
With no in-person interaction available, sellers need to make it a priority to reach out to prospects and clients just to make a connection and keep relationships alive.
A short conversation to catch up, especially with people you already know, can be critical for salespeople who tend to work and network locally.
During times of economic, health, or global crises people seek connection and stability. It’s the perfect time to reach out and strengthen your relationships. You’ll get more yeses on requests for shorter 15 or 20-minute meetings than longer ones—and often, meetings run longer, anyway.
As you schedule the meeting, be sure to set it as a video meeting to build greater rapport. Making deeper connections with other people is easier when you can see them. Seeing your face allows buyers to develop a stronger connection with you.
- Continue building relationships outside of your meetings.
Beyond meetings, there are other ways to build rapport and make connections that virtual sellers use well, including striking up conversations via email or other messaging media. Don’t overlook the opportunities these channels provide.
Another thing you can do is share interesting, relevant content in a direct message—either on LinkedIn or a quick email. For example:
Too many messages are written without evidence of an individual’s flair so they often sound flat and impersonal. It’s important to add a human touch; take a chance and put some personality in your emails. Relationship building during virtual times is different but by no means is it impossible. By simply taking the time and space for rapport, and being proactive in your relationship-building efforts, you can build strong client relationships that are essential for sales success.
Robert Gonye is a business growth expert and influencer. He writes in his personal capacity. For comments and views: [email protected]