Don’t Build Rapport By Sucking Up.

2 10 2009

Michigan-1Rapport Building is taught in Sales 101.  You gotta find an area of commonality and build that relationship, girl! Lame.  Every other sales person goes into meetings with the same strategy – look around the office at pictures, posters, diplomas, books, whatever, and ask questions.  OMG!  You have the best sponge collection!

 

Aren’t you original.

 

I recently stumbled upon an even better way to build a connection with a new client – competition.  No really.  I had a first-meeting with the director of a nationally recognized sports organization to pitch SnapShotU, a great new online application from my company, Consolidated Graphics.  I did my pre-call research and learned all about the guy.  I was in luck and discovered that we had TONS in common – he was from the same area of Northeast Ohio as myself and even attended a college right near mine.  I couldn’t wait to impress him into liking me.

 

The meeting started off in the standard “arms-length-hand-shake” way as we situated ourselves around the table.  Time to implement rapport building.  I had decided that the best strategy was to slyly ask questions that I already knew the answers to: “Where are you from?”  “Gasp… OHIO?!  No way.  Me too?!  What a small, small world.  I’m shocked.” The atmosphere gradually warmed as I peppered my sales pitch with “unplanned” discoveries of areas we had in common.

 

As the meeting drew to a close, I decided it was time to pull my ace out of my sleeve and really seal the deal.  You see, 99% Ohioans are fierce football fans.  We are split in our loyalty to professional teams, but unite behind the crimson and gray of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  For years the Bucks have been a source of pride and camaraderie for Ohioans worldwide.  As I wrapped up the meeting, I dropped in a casual remark about the Buckeyes with a winning smile.

His smile faded.  Uh Oh.

 

The guy was a Michigan Wolverine’s fan – the arch-nemesis of Ohio State going back 85 years.  To my great surprise, this contention turned out to warm our relationship up even more.  I returned to my office and decided to focus on this awkward moment rather than all of the pleasantries.  I found a Michigan Wolverine’s paraphanalia site and ordered him a fan towel.  I sent it to him along with a note reading

“Here is a little something for you to show your team spirit, not that it will help you in your game against State this weekend!  Try to wave it extra hard and see if magic happens.”

 

Score.  By focusing on our differences I was able to make him laugh and make myself stand out.  We now have plans to attend an Air Force Football game where the combined love for beer and the pigskin will hopefully continue to position me in his mind as the first thing he thinks of when he needs print.

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