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I talk a great deal to my clients about the importance of building credibility; it’s a crucial aspect of any successful sale.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true: people buy from people, they want to buy from people they know, like, and trust. And the way to earn that status is to focus on building and maintaining relationships that go beyond the transactional nature of simply closing a deal.

This is still true, but the way we go about building relationships has changed.

Remember what the sales experience was like before the pandemic?

You’d show up early for a face to face meeting at the client’s office and the key contact would meet you and then walk you to a conference room. As you plugged your laptop into the projector and waited for others to enter the room, you’d chat.

Later, you’d treat your client to drinks, coffee, a meal, or some other in-person interaction, which would deepen your connection and allow you to get to know each other better in a less formal setting.

Now, it’s not so simple.

Meetings are all virtual. They start on time—or just after the scheduled time, once everyone has logged in. Everyone says hello, and then people jump right into the business at hand. At the scheduled end time, people simply log off. There’s no friendly chit-chat or meetup for coffee.

The good news is you can still focus on relationship building even when your interactions are online. Here are four ways to do just that.

How to Create Time and Space for Rapport Virtually

1. Take the lead and focus on relationship-building from the start.

In spite of the virtual nature of business these days, it is possible to make time for building rapport.

Let’s say you have an hour-long meeting. You don’t want to lose the hour to small talk, but you do want to warm up the room before diving in. It’s as simple as starting with a check in, “Before we get going, I just want to do a quick check in to see how everyone is doing.”
Don’t discount the power of relationships and do give it the appropriate amount of time. It’s also tempting to let everyone else go first. But if you want to set the tone, you need to go first.

Whatever you do, people naturally tend to follow with similar commentary. If you want to break the ice a certain way, set the tone and go first.

2. End your meeting with a casual discussion.

In face-to-face selling, some of the best conversations happen after the meeting has concluded. Allow that to happen virtually as well.

After the formal part of a one-on-one meeting ends, bring the call to a close by refocusing on your rapport. For example:
“Well, the next steps seem to be A, B, and C. Yes?” [Buyer agrees.] “Great. Before you go, I’m curious to know more about what you said about being an amateur rugby player. I’m a fan too.”

3. Setup short check-in meetings.

With no in-person interaction available, sellers need to make it a priority to reach out to prospects and clients just to make a connection and keep relationships alive. A short conversation to catch up, especially with people you already know, can be critical for salespeople who tend to work and network locally.

To initiate a check-in meeting via email, you could write:

Hi Carl, it’s been a while, and I was thinking of you because [insert reason here]. Given [insert reason here], I thought it might be good to catch up on a call. What do you think?

It can be just that simple. As you schedule the meeting, be sure to set it as a video meeting because making deeper connections with other people is easier when you can see them. Seeing your face allows buyers to develop a stronger connection with you.

4. Continue building relationships outside of your meetings.

Beyond meetings, there are other ways to build rapport and make connections that virtual sellers use well, including striking up conversations via email, LinkedIn, text, or other messaging media. Don’t overlook the opportunities these channels provide.
For example, you could designate a few minutes each day to check LinkedIn and see what your connections are sharing. Give their posts a “like,” or add a comment that demonstrates your interest. Likewise, share your own content so you show up in your connections’ feeds and stay top of mind.

We have more tips for using Linkedin effectively

Another thing to do is share interesting, relevant content in a direct message—either on LinkedIn or a quick email. For example:

Hi Michelle. Saw this article today, and based on our recent conversations, I thought you would enjoy reading it, too. Let’s catch up sometime soon!

Too many messages are written without evidence of an individual’s personal flair so they often sound bland and impersonal. It’s important to add a human touch; take a chance and put some personality in your emails.

Relationship building during virtual times is different but by no means impossible. By simply making the time and being proactive in your relationship building efforts, you can build the strong client relationships that are essential for sales success.

Are you struggling to build rapport in a virtual world? Maybe we can help.

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