Six Very Effective Rapport Building Questions
Have you ever been solicited on the phone by a salesperson and they started off with a generic question such as, “How are you doing today?” There is nothing inherently wrong with that question—but it’s been overused to the point that you know it’s just part of a script. Does the salesperson truly want to know how you are doing? Of course not. Being predictable and sticking to a script is fine—but you should never strive for fine. You and your sales team must strive for excellence; thus, you need to make sure your sales team implements excellent questions that make the prospect feel valued and not annoyed.
No one wants to hear empty filler. Recent sales studies have proven it takes an average of eight calls to get a prospect on the line. So don’t let your reps squander the opportunity when they finally get ahold of a potential customer. “Did you have a nice weekend?” doesn’t cut it. But questions that build good rapport do. You want your prospects to remember your reps for days, weeks, and even months after the call has taken place.
What is a good question that builds rapport?
You can’t be a salesperson without asking questions. And you can’t be a great salesperson without asking the right questions. A good connection between salesperson and prospect must be established immediately. Due to this, the questions need to be extremely personalized and not just questions that could be asked of anyone. For example, which is the better question: “How was your weekend?” or “Did you have fun at the golf course on Sunday?” Your reps should never be too personal, but adding a level of personalization to their questions shows they’re paying attention to the individual just as much as the sale.
The odds are always against salespeople. Only eighteen percent of buyers say they value and respect salespeople. But your team can beat the odds with rapport building questions. Teach your reps the following questions. They’ll increase their sales and, most importantly, increase your revenue.
1) “I see you live in [name of city]. I heard traffic’s crazy there. How long is your commute?”
Location-focused questions are vital to being a great salesperson. They prove to the prospect that you have knowledge about their life. Questions about commute times/heavy traffic are extremely relatable because no one in their right mind enjoys being stuck in traffic. Location-focused conversations guarantee a unique conversation with the prospect.
Why it’s important:
The reps will use the responses to learn more about the prospects and determine unique information. For example, a prospect living in rural North Dakota is probably going to have a much different lifestyle than a prospect living in Manhattan.
More location-based questions to consider:
-“Have you ever gone to [restaurant or public place]? I’ve heard many good things about it.”
-“Are you originally from [current city]?”
-“I’ve heard there’s a [festival or event] going on every year. Is that worth going to?”
2) “Where did you work before you started working for [current organization]?”
Reps should never use questions that are too specific or ones that yield simple yes/no answers. Open-ended questions are the best resource to ensure a natural and authentic dialogue will take place. Questions about one’s occupation provide the rep with insight into not only the prospect, but the prospect’s company. For example, if a prospect mentions a previous company he/she used to work for that the rep’s done business with in the past, the rep can ask if the prospect knows any of the rep’s contacts. This will increase the rep’s credibility. And your company’s.
Why it’s important:
Questions that are career-related feature the ideal amount of personalization and keep the focus on the prospect. Psychological studies prove it’s human nature for people to love talking about themselves. Let them. Those studies have revealed that talking about oneself simply makes people feel good—and you, of course, want the prospects feeling good.
More career-based questions to consider:
-“I see that you used to work in [another industry]. What made you decide to pursue working in [current industry]?”
-“You used to work at [former company]? Do you happen to know [person’s name]? He’s a great friend and client of mine.”
-“A lot of my clients have told me that working in [industry] can be [adjective or a detail]. Is this true?”
3) “I see that you went to [name of college]. That’s a great school. What made you decide to go there?”
Almost everybody is proud of where they went to school and has fond memories of attending. Reps should take advantage of this for the sake of establishing good morale. The prospect is very likely to enjoy telling the rep about their college experience. College information, as well as plenty of other information, is almost always available with a quick Google search or the information is listed on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Even if a rep can’t find the information online, it’s okay for he/she to ask the prospect where they attended college.
Why it’s important:
The best sales reps use psychology to their advantage and ask questions that are likely to make people who enjoy talking about themselves, well, talk about themselves. A strong connection can be formed by simply allowing the prospect to talk about his/her life.
More education-related questions to consider:
“My friend, [name of friend], attended your college. Do you happen to know him/her?”
“Did you have a positive experience at [name of college]?”
“Were you involved in any sports, clubs, or activities at [name of college]?”
4) “I saw your blog post on [name of site]. I enjoyed reading it. What is your opinion of [related subject]?”
ABF. Always be flattering—but don’t be too over-the-top—always be genuine when flattering a prospect. Being or seeming sincere is crucial to the sales process. Most prospects can tell when a rep is being fake or phony in any capacity.
For example, if a rep says he/she read a post that the prospect made on a site such as LinkedIn or a blog and asks for the prospect’s opinion concerning something related, the rep must act genuinely interested in the prospect’s response.
Why it’s important:
Once again, a personal (but not too personal) question will prove to the prospect that the rep is paying attention and genuinely interested in not only the prospect, but the prospect’s opinions. The prospect will probably be flattered that the rep took the time to ask—and the odds will increase that the prospect will open up from that point forward.
More personality-related questions to consider:
“I see that you’re a fan of [tv show]. Have you ever watched [similar tv show]?”
“I enjoy reading your blog. What are some of your favorite blogs to read?”
“That post you shared on LinkedIn was very inspiring. Where do I go to find more posts like the one you shared?”
5) “I see that your company just relocated. Do you like the new location?”
Remember, work-related questions are great because they’re personal without being too personal. They also help a rep learn more about other companies, which can be extremely helpful to allow the reps to have a better understanding of exactly who they are doing business with. Questions such as these are very simple and they won’t catch the prospect off-guard or make the prospect have to pause to think.
Why it’s important:
It’s such a simple question, yet, open-ended as to how the prospect will respond. A good rep will easily keep this conversation going, while simultaneously acquiring new information about companies.
More company-based questions to consider:
“What are you and your organization’s top goals for the next year?”
“Congratulations on the promotion. You must be feeling great, right?”
“I saw your company attended [name of event]. Did you go?”
6) “How often do you get to travel for work?”
A travel-related question is always extremely easy for a prospect to answer and the sales rep will benefit due to the ease of relevant follow-up questions. For example, the rep can continue the conversation and ask about their nearest airport, what hotels they recommend, etc. Everyone travels; thus, common ground will always be established though these types of questions.
Why it’s important:
The rep will benefit by knowing how often they travel. Why? It’s simple. The rep will learn a great deal of information about the schedule and availability of the prospect without having to explicitly ask. For example, a prospect that travels three weeks a month will be infinitely harder to reach than someone who makes one or two trips a year. A rep should keep this information in mind when phone calls are not being returned. Reps should seek out the cell phone numbers of prospects so the likelihood of contact will dramatically increase.
More travel-related questions to consider:
“I travel a lot too. Do you have any tips on how to balance travel with work responsibilities?”
“What are some of your favorite cities to do business in?”
“I don’t get to travel much either. Do you wish you traveled more or are you content staying in one place like I’ve been doing?”
Rapport Building Takes Time
Just like a new owner of a company can’t immediately add value to a company that he/she has acquired, a sales rep can’t immediately instill value into his/her relationship with a prospect. But if your reps consistently ask questions similar to the ones listed above—more and more prospects will see that they are valued; thus, good rapport will be established over time. There’s no quick fix. But one of the quickest things your reps can do is ask these questions. They’ll lead to more sales and more revenue.