We all know how important rapport building skills are. Hundreds, maybe thousands of books have been written on the subject. Sales courses always start with teaching the skills.

And rightly so. Rapport is the foundational building block enabling us to get on with and deal with people.

However, there are times when being in total rapport can be a major trap – and actually quite disastrous.

Many years ago I had a sales manager complain one of his staff (we’ll call her Sophie) wasn’t meeting quota and seemed to be actively undermining the organisation by siding with her clients. You’d agree, not useful behaviour.

Watching Sophie’s interactions with clients I quickly realised she was fabulous in getting into rapport with them. She loved them and they loved her. It was a mutual dance.

But the result of this “love in” was Sophie forgot who she was and who she represented, took on the client’s outlook and effectively agreed with them when they said they really didn’t need any products.

And it went further. Clients would complain about stuff and Sophie would take their side against her own organisation. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

The tragedy is Sophie is not uncommon in sales. I’ve seen it many, many times over the years. Being too empathetic can be detrimental to your success.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying rapport is bad. Far from it. Gaining rapport is an essential part of the know you, like you, trust you process we all go through when deciding to buy from someone.

However, Sophie’s critical mistake was being passively in rapport and not taking the lead.

I love watching great ballroom dancing. Two people in absolute rapport moving gracefully around the dance floor. But imagine what would happen if both decided to lead – or neither? It would be a pretty shambolic affair.

Rapport in a sales situation is just like dancing. One of you has to lead, decide where the conversation is going and make sure the other person comes with you – while staying in rapport the whole time.

And if you’re the salesperson, it has better be you!

You need to set your intention. You need to decide where you want this conversation to go. And most important of all, you must stay out of their crap.

If you empathise with them to the extent you effectively merge with them, you’ll take on their model of the world, their beliefs and their excuses. You’ll end up agreeing with them, against your own interests.

So if you find yourself feeling sorry for your prospect, thinking they can’t afford what you’re offering, wondering how they’ll eat, pay the mortgage, clothe the kids if they divert funds to you, STOP.

Step back and realise it’s not your decision what they buy or don’t buy. Nor is it your problem where they’ll find the money. If someone wants something badly enough, believe me they’ll find the means to do it. I recounted a story from the late Zig Ziglar (world famous motivational speaker and sales trainer) here. It’s worth reading.

Remember, selling is about serving the other person through creating win-win outcomes. If you truly believe they would benefit from your stuff, it’s your duty to make sure they realise it and not be taken in while drowning in empathy.

If you feel even the hint of possibility you or members of your team could be falling into this trap we offer comprehensive sales training and ongoing coaching which will help you and your sales team improve your performance. You’ll learn new sales skills and hone those you already have. Your sales meetings will be more productive and you’ll waste less time chasing people up.

Call me on (02) 9499-7958 for more information and we’ll tailor a program for you and your team.

Rashid & Barbara.

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