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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Relationship Sales: Step 1 To Cultivating A Successful Client Relationship Is Building Rapport

        If you started following me on this blog you would know that I kicked it off with a short treatise on relationship vs. transactional selling.  If you didn’t see last week’s post you can catch up here.

        This week I will address the basics of building client relationships that will ultimately lead to greater success for your insurance and financial services practice. Although this post is about rapport building the first step begins with your self image.  You are not a salesperson (even though your compensation depends on how much you sell).  You are a professional practitioner in the field of insurance and financial services.  Just like a doctor or lawyer you will be respected for your professional expertise in your field.  You can improve on that expertise by taking advantage of continuing education offered by your companies and the industry (i.e. NAIFAThe American College) and seeking the designations that are appropriate to your particular practice (i.e. CLU, ChFC, CFP). This respect for your expertise will translate into trust from your prospects and clients. Along these lines you need to market yourself as a problem solver and fulfiller of goals and dreams. No one wants to be “sold”, but you will meet few prospects or clients who wouldn’t solve a financial problem, or fulfill a financial goal or dream if 1.) they owned the problem, goal or dream and 2.) they could afford the solution. So, step one is to become an expert and position yourself as problem solver/goal and dream fulfiller.

        The next step for building a good client relationship is to establish rapport.  The first 15 to 20 minutes when first meeting with your prospect are critical for rapport building.  Hopefully, you have already established your expertise through a referral or in a pre-approach letter or phone call.  Now it is time to get to know the prospect.  If you are meeting with a prospect to discuss a personal insurance or financial situation make sure the significant other is present for the meeting.  The same goes for business meetings in that all decision makers should be present.  You have to establish a relationship with all the decision makers; otherwise, you may find yourself stonewalled at the closing presentation.  Why invest all your time and effort if you are not sure all parties are on board.

        I find that the best way to establish rapport is to find common ground with the prospect(s).  It is human nature that our favorite topic for discussion is ourselves.  It bears repeating that people like to talk about themselves.  So, ask questions and then sit back and listen attentively.  Above all be genuinely interested in what they have to say.  Ask about their work, family, hobbies, where they went to school and what they like about the community in which they live.  Avoid politics and religion! Ask the questions in a conversational manner without making it sound like an interview.  Two things will happen as a result of this process:

First, you will be amazed at what you have in common with your prospect(s).  I can’t tell you how many times I discovered my prospects shared the same hobbies, went to the same school as me or my wife, were in the teaching profession as is my wife, had children who attended school where my children attended or had an occupation the same as someone close to me.  It could be as simple as growing up in the same city and relocating to this area or sharing the love/hatred of certain sports teams. Prospects will pretty much tell you anything you want to know and give you an opportunity to share what you have in common with them.

Second, the information you glean during this rapport building will enable you to later ask relevant questions to assess their financial need and gain referrals.  Questions like:

1.                  Have you started saving for your children’s college education?
2.                  When were you planning to retire?
3.                  How do you plan to replace loss of income in the event of your death or disability?
4.                  How much is your mortgage and how many years do you have left to pay on it?
5.                  How have your parents handled paying for long term care?
6.                  What does your brother-in-law do for a living?
7.                  Where does your sister live?
8.                  Do you and your golfing buddies ever discuss these issues?

The list is endless, and since you have already built rapport with your prospect(s) you have earned their trust, and they will allow you to guide them through the process of identifying their insurance needs and financial goals and dreams.  This brings us full circle to what I said earlier.  Position yourself as a problem solver and goal and dream fulfiller.  In other words, sell yourself and don’t be a product pusher.  Product sales will come naturally when you offer solutions to problems and help your prospect(s) fulfill a goal or dream.  Please let me know what you think about my take on this topic and feel free to share any successful rapport building skills of your own.



  1. Good advice for any sales professional, in or out of the financial services business!