Five sales techniques that build rapport while qualifying prospects
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Five sales techniques that build rapport while qualifying prospects

You can build a relationship with a prospect while qualifying them

Top-performing sales professionals will readily admit that most sales are made or lost during the qualifying phase. You’re trying to figure out whether it makes sense to invest your time and energy with the prospect. And of course, the prospect is doing exactly the same thing with you. It’s a delicate dance.

What makes it even more delicate is that you also must establish rapport right from the get go. Fortunately, says sales coach Stan Billue, the evaluation process itself is a great way to connect. That’s when you have the best opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a good listener and sincerely interested in the buyer. Here are five ways to build rapport with prospects from the very first encounter.

  • Soften the questions

Everyone learns in Selling 101 to ask open-ended questions to gather more information. However, if you need to find out five or 10 things when qualifying, it can sound like an FBI interrogation. Instead of questions, try using “Instructional Statements,” which are less confrontational and more conversational. Some examples: “Tell me about…”, “Share with me…” or “Fill me in on…”

  • Don’t ask the questions everyone else asks

Prospects and customers have probably been qualified by many other salespeople, all of whom ask for the same basic information. The result: Many prospects develop scripted answers to these scripted questions, which aren’t always the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and do little to give you a competitive edge. Instead, come up with questions that make a prospect stop and think. For example: “So you currently have eight copiers in the office. Why not seven? Or nine?”

  • Use “Continuation Phrases”

Each time a prospects answer a question or Instructional Statement, stay with the topic before going on to the next subject: “Go on…”, “Tell me more…,” “And then what happened?” or “Please continue…” Whatever the prospect says next to explain, justify, or enhance their initial response is likely to be closer to the truth.

  • Use their words

Listen for and use the other person’s favorite words and phrases. Most people use three of their favorite words or phrases per minute when talking. These will be words or phrases you recognize, but aren’t necessarily part of your everyday vocabulary. Write them down and feed them back.

For example, say you ask a prospect how extra money would improve their lifestyle and they answer with, “$400 or $500 a month would sure keep the wolves away.” Later in the conversation, refer back to this language specifically: “You said that an extra $500 a month would keep the wolves away. What wolves are we talking about?” Prospects will start to feel extremely comfortable with you. Why? Because you’re showing that you listened.

  • Try the “CFO Question”

One technique to find out what’s most important to the buyer is the “CFO Question” or “Banker Question.” You need to adapt it to your situation of course, but here’s how you set it up: “Let’s pretend that your CFO called and said that for tax reasons you need to spend $50,000 of budget, but there is a catch: You have to spend every penny by 5 o’clock tomorrow or you lose the entire amount. You can’t save it or invest it; you have to go buy something. What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted?” However they respond, you simply say; “Tell me about it,” and listen. They will now describe their hot button in great detail because that’s what they really want to accomplish.

Source: Stan Billue,
photo credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography

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