Connecting: Step One in Every Sales Process

John Ace Underwood

When you step into your own confessional for just a minute, you will find that you don’t spend much time with that specific intent as your objective. Here’s the real truth; you’re not alone. This first phase of the sales process is truly the most misunderstood and therefore the most underutilized and overlooked phase of the sales process. How do I know this? Two reasons: personal experience and personal observation.

In my earlier years in professional selling, I was of the opinion that building rapport meant being nice. I thought rapport meant having people like me, maybe respect me, appreciate me and my knowledge, etc. and I believed I pursued that rapport all through the entire sales process.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to have a long chat with a highly successful insurance professional in Indiana that moved over into factory-built housing sales where he was even more successful. We discussed selling methodology, specifically the need for building rapport. He explained that in his experience, it wasn’t so much about if you know what rapport is and that you have the ability to build rapport. Most salespeople are good-hearted people, kind, courteous, and would never do anything to avoid building rapport with their client.

He made me realize is that it’s not if you can connect with your prospect, but rather when you connect. He went on to explain that in order to increase the chance of having a successful outcome to our sales effort, we need to build rapport and connect with a prospective buyer first, early… before we do anything else. This is important if for no other reason is that either the next step or the step after that is to ask the customer questions; what we know as fact-finding or interviewing.

This is where you find out what the customer’s wants, and needs are. This is the step where you need their trust and their honesty. If your prospective buyer is hesitant to give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you will not likely be in a position to help them. Let’s be clear, if you haven’t built rapport and connected with your prospect, they are not likely to provide you with the information you need.

Let us look at some of the ways you can connect with our prospective buyer. Here are a few guidelines that, if you follow them, and commit to meeting your first objective before you do anything else, you will find this to be highly productive. As elementary as these steps seem, many overlook them.

  1. Let them look – If you have new, first-time visitors that basically say, “We would just like to look at some of your homes”, let them. Know this; they’re worried about a plethora of issues, all of which they see as putting them at a disadvantage. Right now, they just need to know that they can trust somebody. Tell them “I’ll unlock the first home, and they can look at as many homes as they would like”. Give them 5 minutes or so to look at the first home, then come back, introduce yourself, and continue with your process. Think of it this way, if the first request they make is denied, why would they begin to trust you?
  2. Get to know them – Spend some time building a personal relationship upon which you can then build a business relationship. Ask them some “non-business” related questions such as where they’re from, how long they’ve been in the area. Take a personal interest in them. Whenever possible, find something you have in common to talk about, even if it’s not related to their home needs. 
  3. Offer refreshments – You should be well stocked up with various sodas, coffee, and water. Don’t say “would you like something to drink”, as most often people will turn you down. Say this instead, “We have Coke, Diet Coke, Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper, bottled water and coffee. Which would you like?”
  4. Don’t move forward – Don’t move to the next step until your new guests appear relaxed, at ease, and are easily engaged in some light conversation.

If you will commit to doing just these 4 items, I absolutely guarantee you that you will have a much easier time getting them to tell you their wants and needs, as well as their concerns and worries, all of which you need to know.


About John Ace Underwood

John Ace Underwood has a very successful 30-year career in the manufactured and modular housing industry. As a manager for a single lot retailer in the southeast, he managed up to 9 salespeople with sales typically over 45 homes per month. John has also served as Vice President for multi-lot manufactured housing retailer in the southwest.
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