Meeting Room Relationship Nurturing
Or How To Get Good Reports with Good Rapport
We tend to project our own selves onto others - our fears, our wants, our needs, our strong points are reflected back to us through them. This process happens both ways and can be used to your advantage.
When your strong points or your passions bounce back from your meeting partner and they don’t change much, you tend to find yourself in him/ her. This identification process is key in establishing a good, long-lasting business relationship. And close the deal.
Briefly put - “birds of a feather flock together”. We like people who resemble us to some degree. We also tend to agree with them, which is why we’ve dedicated this whole post to understanding the dinamics behind getting people to like your personality.
In sales terms, this is called rapport. We’ve touched on this last time, when we discussed about Small Talk In The Meeting Room. And regardless of what some might say, good salesmen don’t go for cheap tricks to get the sale - they nurture their relationships. They make their potential customer feel good about himself (or herself), they invest a lot of time and energy into understanding what they really need, what they want - to ultimately highlight the best solution to their problems. That’s rapport. Or, according to Merriam Webster’s (Online) Dictionary: relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.
Why Rapport Works
As said before, we like who we like and we agree with them more often.
Robert Cialdini, in “Influence at Work”, talks about the principle of Liking. It’s mostly what we’ve covered so far, but check this out - in a study Dr. Cialdini conducted, response rates on a survey jumped from 30% to 56% by changing one small thing - the sender’s name was modified so that it would resemble the recipient’s.
In a study of interrogation practices, it’s been shown that fostering empathy and autonomy improved the quantity and quality of the intelligence acquired from the interrogated people. It lowered their defense mechanisms because, contrary to common practices (accusing, blackmailing, extorting, menacing), rapport-building did not increase anxiety. The process defused conflicts even before they occured.
How To Build Rapport
The best way to build rapport is to not think about building rapport. Instead, it should be approached in a manner similar to what we (probably) all did in highschool when we were trying to impress our crush.
Once you observe a pattern emerging - and there are always, always patterns when it comes to what people post on social channels - you can create custom streams for the topics they seem most interested about. Cross-check those with your own, add a bit of research to the mix and you’ve got yourself a limitless supply of smalltalk material. On topics they enjoy and seek out.
Why go to all the trouble? For two reasons:
- You’ll have something to talk about before going straight to business, so less awkwardness
- You’ll understand them better and subsequently understand what arguments work best with them. But, most of all, you will be able to refer to things familiar to them, making the whole meeting be (and feel) friendly, close.
Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to prepare for the actual talks. I don’t know about you, but I get nervous easily when there are big numbers involved, especially if the partner I’m talking with isn’t very familiar with my way of presenting. The best way to avoid being nervous is talk less than they do. And you do so by asking a lot of questions about them, using the topics you’ve dug out before.
For instance, if you’re supposed to hold a presentation in front of a board of directors and you know at least two of them are fond of skiing, you can use that to your advantage. You can talk about the last time you went skiing, what challenges you faced and how they resemble the situation you’re discussing. You can then ask them to share their experiences.
Use a lot of open questions - a general rule of the thumb is to think about what you want to know, sum it up in a single phrase and then put a “how” or “why” in front of it. “When”, “where”, “who” can work, but they are a bit trickier. “What” only works when it’s a variant of “how”, so don’t worry about that one.
For example: “HOW did you go down that slope without losing an arm? I’d be terrified of it.” - if you read between the lines, my question is almost begging my discussion partner to boast. More than that, it asks for advice without asking for advice - so you don’t jeopardize the delicate balance of power that meeting is based upon.
When they answer, take what they said and repeat it as a question, for emphasis and clarity. Don’t overdo it, though! You don’t want to sound creepy.