Establishing Professional Rapport — Not Just Being Likable
“When two people meet, as long as there is any form of rapport maintained, the person with the most certainly will eventually influence the other person.” – Tony Robbins
Yes! You should be likable if you intend to be at least somewhat influential in life. This is especially true if you work in sales — and even truer if you work in fitness, where sales and continued service go together. However, in sales, we often confuse professional rapport with rapport. For example, just because my kid and your kid both play football AND I think you are hilarious doesn’t mean I’m going to give you a dollar if your solutions aren’t for me.
Let me break your bubble real quick:
Rapport is an expectation, not a perk.
You do not get bonus points because you are likable. The more likely outcome is that you will not remain in any sales roles for long if people do not enjoy your presence.
Professional rapport is about establishing yourself as both likable AND as the expert they need. Prospective members or clients will generally not seek out a health club membership or look to work with a personal trainer because they are looking for a new friendship. Now we know usually what happens, and what we want to tell them is, “Jane Doe, you don’t know this yet, but you and I are going to be besties and talking about your cat and boyfriend soon!” But what they were initially seeking out was a solution. So it’s great that I like you, but it’s equally as vital that I believe in you and your solution.
Before you ask for anyone to enroll for your service, your prospective member/client must believe a few things first:
- They must like you.
- They must trust you.
- They must believe you are a professional in the solution they were looking for.
- They must also believe your solution is what they wanted or needed.
If you fail to establish any of these, chances are the prospective members will not enroll today. For example — let’s say you are interested in buying a motorcycle.
- You’ve known me for years as a likable, knowledgeable and trusted salesperson.
- You have bought vehicles from me and this dealership for years.
- But all we sell are cars. No motorcycles.
Will you buy from me? Of course not! We need all three established to be best positioned to make that sale.
Fortunately, professional rapport is a skill and not a talent. Don’t just focus on making a great first impression and winning them over with your charm. Make sure also to use your “expert’s lingo” that is relevant to your field. Discuss your experience with similar members or clients you have worked with who were ultimately able to overcome those same hurdles by working directly with you, your team and your solution.
Jason R. Stowell is the division director of fitness and wellness for JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. He is an award-winning fitness leader with over 20 years of successful experience providing strategic planning, talent management, and expert-level sales training in the health and fitness industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.