Successful salespeople understand that making the sale has much more to do with developing trust and rapport than it does with issues of lowest price, highest quality or the largest company. Unfortunately, far too many unintentionally sabotage their chances of making a sale by skipping the “small talk” and getting right down to business.

On the surface, this approach might appear to be an effective use of time, but it’s a huge mistake that will cost tons of money over the long haul. Before you can expect your prospect to buy your products or services, he or she must first like and trust you.

The warm-up period
There is no actual set amount of time for the warm-up phase of the appointment, because some prospects naturally warm up faster than others. Said differently, the warm up period is not determined by a length of time but rather by the level of rapport established. Your prospect will literally show you, through his or her body language, when rapport has been established and the moment is right for you to smoothly transition into the sales presentation. Make note of your prospect’s body language gestures when you first begin talking and watch for the flow of gestures to move from closed to open. For example, if your prospect begins the appointment by sitting back in his or her chair with folded arms and crossed legs, you must continue the warm-up until he or she shows open gestures and leans forward toward you.

Here are seven proven tips to help you build rapport and quickly warm up your next prospect:

  1. Make your prospect feel comfortable by offering him or her something to drink … tea, water, soft drink or coffee.
  2. Look for common ground and points of mutual interest. Good topics include children’s activities, sporting events, hobbies, vacation plans and the old standby … the weather. Obviously, you want to stay away from any topics that might be polarizing, such as politics or religion.
  3. Pay attention and listen like a homicide detective. Take notes and ask open-ended questions to gain information and get your prospect talking.
  4. Use open body language, smile frequently and maintain good eye contact.
  5. Listen more than you talk. Keep the focus of attention on your prospect and not on yourself.
  6. Avoid the temptation of interrupting your prospect when he or she is speaking.
  7. Match your prospect’s rate of speech and voice tone. If you speak quickly and your prospect speaks slowly, it’s up to you to make the adjustment.