Los Angeles: “I’m excited about meeting with this new prospect tomorrow,” started John. He continued with, “I know there needs to be some rapport building before I jump into any business, do you have a list of questions I can ask as conversation starters?”
If John is looking for a laundry list of questions he can ask every new prospect to help build rapport, he has a lot bigger issues. What most sales professionals typically do in these scenarios is revert back to the superficial “How’s the weather?” line of questioning which helps scratch the surface. But what if we could dig deeper and develop real rapport?
Selling in today’s world to affluent investors is about relationship marketing and relationship management. The key word here is “relationship.” Relationships are built on a foundation of trust, and building rapport, is the starting point for building trust. Accelerating the rapport building process means actively listening, being engaged in the conversations and asking the right questions to get our prospect talking. The more you can get them talking about themselves, the more they will like you – it’s that simple (but not easy).
Veteran advisors will remind you of their days walking into a prospects home or office, looking at personal items and asking them questions about those items to get them talking. In today’s world of intelligence gathering, with so much information available online (some would argue too much information) , our job is much easier.
Here are some ways to spark more substantial conversations leveraging LinkedIn information. (Also, don’t be afraid to mention LinkedIn. In today’s world it’s far from taboo!). Also, don’t be afraid to send the prospect a LinkedIn invitation before the meeting. You might say something in your request such as,” Mr. Prospect, I am looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin.”
Here are some ideas of questions based on LinkedIn profile information to assist in building rapport faster. Remember, the best sales people are those who are able to develop a bond with their prospect.
Referencing mutual connections can build credibility in a flash. If you notice you and your prospect share some mutual connections, don’t hesitate to bring it up.
· I saw on LinkedIn that we both know Tom Reynolds. He’s a great guy. I play golf with him at least once a month. How long have you know him? Did you used to work together?
· I noticed we are both connected to Shawn Green. I worked with him at Boeing. How do you know him?
One of the key affluent motivators of the affluent is family. If you are searching for your prospect online and pick up some information about their family that you can relate to – use it! For example, If you notice they have a 12 year old boy who plays soccer (and you have a child with a similar interest) you might ask them a few questions to get them talking. After all, people love talking about their kids.
· Do you have children? (wait for response) That’s great, how old are they? Do they play sports? (you already know the answer to this question) I have a boy who plays soccer as well.
Information you gather through an online Google search needs to be used more indirectly than information posted on LinkedIn or Facebook. Being too direct with information you uncover through a Google search can be off-setting to a prospect. Information posted on social networking websites are public and can be used more openly.
Identify where your prospect went to school and determine what, if any, connection you have to that school. People love talking about their alma mater.
· I saw on LinkedIn that you went to Duke University. Excellent university. I’ve been to a couple games at Cameron stadium. Are you a big basketball fan?
· My sister went to University of Michigan as well, what was your major? Did you like living in Ann Arbor? I heard it’s a neat little town.
Do you have a connection to a previous or current place of employment? Are you up-to-date on the latest developments of that company?
· I see you used to work for Raytheon. I have a good friend who also works there, Jason Lemus. Do you know him? He’s a level five engineer.
· I saw on LinkedIn that you used to work for VF Corp. Are the changing prices of cotton affecting the business? Is this rise in organic clothing having an effect?
LinkedIn has an application that let’s you display a reading list on your profile. This will allow you to see if you have read the same book as your prospect .
· I noticed on LinkedIn that you read the new Steve Jobs biography. I read it recently as well. Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
This is just a start, but you get the point. Online technology, especially social networking websites, is a sales professional’s best friend. We can take this information and leverage it to build rapport and trust faster, which means we can make the sale faster! Websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. are not what makes the sale. No affluent investor will do business with you because you have an excellent LinkedIn page and post status updates regularly. It’s important to understand that they are not sales tools, but are research tools to assist in making the sale. The advisors we coach use these mediums the right way and are uncovering connections, getting personal introductions, and developing rapport with affluent prospects at a pace that exceed their peers.