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How to Improve Sales Skills by Making Connections


When many people sit down at the table with potential clients, the obvious goal is to make a connection. A good connection can create a lasting partnership that can benefit everyone in meaningful ways. Here’s the problem - frequently they go about this by trying  to establish common ground to form said connection.. When it comes to building a lasting partnership, common ground is a weak foundation.

Instead of establishing common ground, good negotiators build a real connection by expressing genuine understanding through tactical empathy. It’s an easy way to improve sales, and build a vast network of business relationships

If you are genuinely trying to understand the other side and build rapport, then you will be standing on solid ground even if the deal falls apart. Because you know exactly what this person has experienced, you can pick things up where you left off when the situation warrants.

How to Improve Sales Skills by Making Connections

But How Exactly Do You Establish Rapport and Understanding?

In my experience, the best tool in the Black Swan toolbelt for making genuine connections is a Summary™. When you can express what someone else is experiencing so thoroughly that they can only respond one way—that’s right—you can build a lasting rapportBecause ultimately, this person can’t help but trust you because they feel so understood by you. Build rapport through understanding, and your counterpart is more likely to explain what they are experiencing in their business, opening up new possibilities. This creates a deeper relationship, where you might even end up making a better deal than what you had originally set out for.

Beyond Summaries, you can also use Mirrors™. Mirrors create curiosity—Why does this person want to know more about me?—making you more likable. People like to feel like you want to know more about them. You can also use Labels™, which help you demonstrate understanding and make observations about someone else’s experiences. This creates a space where someone feels like you are taking an interest in their experience, and continue sharing with you.

I’ve had great success with Accusation Audits™, too. 

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For example, I was recently involved in a deal that was falling apart. I launched into an Accusation Audit™ to show my counterpart that I genuinely understood where they were coming from: You’ve spent so much time on this deal, and this is going to set you back further. You are going to have to explain this to your team, and you’ve already had to do that. This is a really uncomfortable situation for you, and this news is ultimately just making your life harder. They said, “That’s right,” and we began to problem solve together, eventually saving the deal.

When you spell out their lay of the land, the counterpart feels understood, and you have an opportunity to build that connection even if you have to deliver bad news

People Like Doing Business with People They Like

At the end of the day, people like doing business with people they like—which means they like doing business with people who understand them. If you’re taking every opportunity to demonstrate understanding during a negotiation, the results will follow.

That said, it’s essential to think about the type of person who’s sitting across the table from you. Here are some things to keep in mind depending on the negotiator type you’re up against:

  • When you speak with an Assertive, you need to understand that these individuals don’t like wasting time. As such, it’s essential to build connections quickly. But because they love correcting, this should be easy. Label and if you get it wrong, they will let you know.
  • Analysts, also want to feel as though they’re using their time well, but they want things to be much more thoroughWith Analysts, connections are built throughout the conversation, so you need to be patient. If you try to build rapport very quickly, Analysts can become standoffish. Be very detailed, and very patient.
  • Accommodators want to feel as though you’re listening to them, and that they matter to you. Smile a lot, and Use tools such as Labels, Mirrors, and Summaries, and they will feel heard and important and want to make deals with you

Recently, I was going over contracts with a client. They were frustrated with the situation, which was taking longer than they wanted. It was clear that this person was an Assertive, and they hated that things were taking too long. I knew we needed to get the deal back on track quickly, so I spoke to that dynamic: This is probably really frustrating for you. You’ve spent all this time and effort, and feel like you’re just wasting time. Now you’ve got a million redlines on your contract that don’t make any sense, and you’re being put in a tough spot with your team unnecessarily.

Right after I said this, the client relaxed and spoke more candidly with me.  We got to the bottom of the problem and figured out why it wasn’t working for them. We figured out how to solve the problems and get the deal signed. 

For more information on improving sales skills, check out this free guide: 7 Unexpected Ways to Increase Sales.

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