In this special bonus guest episode during Fundamentals Week, Eric and I talk about the Rapport and Empathy stages and how important they are to any sale. Whether you are selling a product or service, B2B or B2C – don’t just check off the box to move past these two stages and onto the close.
We cover the following:
- How most reps view the rapport building step
- Why rapport matters and how often you should build it
- Eric’s Levels Of Pain
- How uncovering pain leads to empathy
- When empathy can go wrong in many ways
More Information on Eric Nelson:
Episode 13a – Transcript
Jason: Welcome to another special bonus episode of the Sales Experience Podcast. My name is Jason Cutter and with me today on the show I have Eric Nelson from Red Pill Sales among lots of other things that he’s all over online. As always I’m going to put a bunch of links that he is given me on where you can find him, his book training, LinkedIn, everything that he’s been producing, awesome content. Literally on the same path where I’m on with just the goal of transforming the sales landscape which is kind of how we connected both synergistically on one what we want the really the sales profession to look like and to operate in and how people to feel. So I asked Eric to come on the show today because I wanted to have a conversation that fits in really nicely with the fundamentals week I have on the show going on right now. When he and I were talking, really wanted to discuss rapport and empathy steps, how that fits in with sales and why that’s so important. Eric, welcome to the sales experience podcast.
Eric: Jason, thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be on your show. It’s so fun too because we’re both on this similar journey going down similar paths, on similar timelines. Although you’d beat me to the book process by a bit here. Mine’s not quite done, but podcasting and all these different things, which is fun. So for today for the people listening to this, I wanted to just cover more. I spend my time by myself, just talk into the microphone. But let’s chat about rapport first. Now in the first 2 episodes of fundamentals week, I covered how to build rapport and how not to build rapport. Let me just throw this wiffle ball, t-ball out there to you.
Jason: Why do you think salespeople do reports so wrong?
Eric: So 1 of the things that I’ve noticed with rapport and being in B two B and B to C sales is that a lot of sales people are given a script and in the script, they’re given an outline saying these are the things that I want to accomplish. Here’s my rapport step, or here’s my opening step. Here’s my rapport step, here’s my agenda step. Well, a lot of people, they think rapport is just 5% of the conversation. I built rapport, asked them how the weather is, how are things going? Where am I calling you from? Then they just get into the meat and potatoes of the conversation. Then they think rapport stops. Well that’s completely wrong because you’re building rapport throughout the entire conversation. So you’re constantly going in and out of rapport, depending on what you’re saying in the conversation. So it’s not just hey, how are ya? How’s your day going? Where am I calling you from? Then let’s talk about the product. Let’s talk about how this can help you and let’s close the deal. No, cause it’s everything that you say either increases rapport or decreases were poor. Every time that you decrease rapport, you have to loop back and start building rapport up again. So it’s a very fluid thing that’s throughout the entire conversation.
Jason: It’s so fascinating that you put it that way where a lot of salespeople think it’s like let’s say 5% of their process, you do it once you move on. I’ve noticed and really seen people do is it almost seems like a task where they’re checking off that box. I’ve got to find something where it would warm you up. Start off the conversation gently before I dive into to why I’m here and my sales pitch and just going for the juggler on my sales process. How’s the weather out there? Talk about sports and just check those things off and then jump into it. So it’s interesting you say how it’s really what you do the whole time and how you can lose it. You can do something or say something that may take a step back or lower the rapport. Then you’ve got to build it back up. But it’s a constant weave. The best salespeople I’ve seen, don’t look at rapport as a 1 time box to check, but as an ongoing part of the whole conversation, as a continuous relationship building kind of fundamental.
Eric: Absolutely. You can use report tactically too. For example, right now I’m working with a client closing a high ticket offer, which is a coaching program. A lot of times you need to break rapport with some of these people and call them out on their BS. Why have you taken 2 years to make a decision? What’s been holding you back? So you’re really breaking rapport, you’re kind of calling them out on their deficiency, on their issues, on their procrastination. Then once they give you a reason that’s acceptable, then you can go back building up rapport again. But in order to do that, you have to build rapport on the front end in order to gain enough trust. That’s really what it comes down to. You have to get enough trust in order to be able to call them out on their crap and then you can break that rapport by calling them out. Basically break them down and then build them back up again at the end.
Jason: Yeah. I worked for a guy of many, many years ago and he kind of explained it in overall relationship terms with anybody, but he says, kind of like beans. He used the analogy of beans in the bag. It’s like when somebody does something for you, there’s a bean and you’re just kind of filling up this repertoire of the relationship and filling and kind of stacking up points. If you do something wrong, then you lose some of those points and it take backwards. You want to make sure there’s always a positive balance of beans in the bag or marbles or checkmarks. But it’s got to be authentic. You can’t just do a bunch of fake and phony stuff for somebody. Then try to cash that in. But like you said, you’ve got to have that rapport and then the trust, which is super important.
Eric: Absolutely. It all comes down to trust cause if you’re asking someone to make a buying decision. Especially, what I’m doing right now with my current client is I’m asking them to spend a lot of money. I’m asking them to invest a lot of money into a program and they have to really trust me that the information that I’m giving them is accurate and that I’m actually wanting them to succeed and not just collect a commission check.
Jason: So you’ve done sales, you’ve led sales teams, all kinds of different experiences. What about going too far with rapport? Have you seen that before or why that would happen in your experience?
Eric: Yes. So a lot of salespeople, especially in the beginning when they’re brand new to sales, they think, oh gosh, I need to be this person’s best friend. We need to just be buddy buddy and basically you hold hands and skip down the beach, rainbows and unicorns type thing. But that actually hurts the sale. It hurts the prospect. It hurts the salesperson. You need to have some healthy boundaries. The prospect needs to know that you’re the 1 that’s in control. You’re the 1 that’s in charge of the sales conversation. You direct where it goes. Once you have that direction, that authority belt that actually helps build your credibility and your rapport even better.
Jason: Yeah. It’s interesting because there’s the two extremes. There’s the checking it off the box to move forward because they don’t value rapport. Then there’s going way too much in the rapport side and basically feeling like that person’s gotta love them before they get into their pitch. I talk about it in episode 12 about doing rapport wrong and when reps do it wrong and for various reasons. Like either they don’t believe in themselves or they don’t believe in their product or service they’re selling, they’re not confident or they’re not sure it’s actually a good thing that they’re selling. So they overcompensate on the friend zone side because they think that will carry the weight of their lack of confidence or the bad nature of what they’re selling.
Eric: It’s really no different than dating it’s guy or girl. No one wants someone that’s super needy that’s gonna oh, what can I do for you? Let me bend over backwards and kiss your butt. They want someone that’s, that’s confident, that’s going to take charge, going to take control depending on the relationship dynamic. It’s no different than in sales. Sales and dating are very similar in how they work.
Jason: It’s funny because I’ve always used that analogy as well. When we’re talking about this rapport thing, if we talk about checking off the box, it’d be like meeting someone brand new that you’re interested in, a little bit of rapport and saying and hey this is when it’s done wrong. Hey how’s the weather? Are you liking the weather? That’s great. Then going into a sales pitch about yourself and why you’re amazing and awesome and what are, you’re such a catch, but that would be right. You also don’t want to go super, super rapport mode without any action steps or at least even seeing if it makes sense. You built so much rapport even in a dating or a potential dating situation before you even know should we keep this conversation going? Cause it may not be a good fit even if they like the same restaurants or you’re talking about sports for a long time might not be good. So it’s interesting how that plus consultative sales is really similar.
Eric: Absolutely. Rapport you can easily jump down a rabbit hole and get lost cause you can be talking about baseball or your favorite restaurant or the weather or any other thing that you talk about just in a conversation. But if you go too far with it, you lose the entire point of the conversation in the first place. Why did they cop on the call with you? Why did they set the appointment with you? They obviously have some pain that they need solved and if you just go down the rapport the entire time then you’re not actually getting to the meat and potatoes of the conversation. What’s their pain, why are they talking to you? So you really want to be able to tactfully and artfully direct your rapport building back to what the issue is for the call.
Jason: I’m sure you’ve gotten this question and your sales leadership career a lot as well. I tell him about the good and the bad, the short bad and the long bed version of report. Then people by extension, say, well, what’s the right amount of rapport? There is no right amount. If the point of rapport is to make a friendly relationship where you can move forward and in some other conversation, then the right amount is whatever it takes for you to get to that point. While at the same time not wanting to chew up too much of your sales interaction time. I talk about this in episode 12. Where I’ve seen some sales reps go really hard on the rapport. They’re talking about it. It actually becomes a really fun conversation. They’re having a great time. Next thing you know, the prospect’s got to go because something comes up, kid starts crying, the phone’s ringing and they’ve got to take another call. They’re late for an appointment, whatever it might be, their phone battery dies. See that all the time. Or a sales rep was on the phone for way too long. Next thing you know, prospects gone, never get ahold of him again. But they got a good buddy. They’re good buds with somebody, but they don’t have anything to show for it. That’s a tough 1. Like you said what’s the right amount? It’s all about that follow-up action. What comes after rapport and moving forward with that, when that feels right. So there’s rapport and then in my mind the next part comes with empathy, which is partially asking questions, discovering, and then obviously being able to relate to that person and wanting to help them. I know you’re that kind of empathetic type salesperson where you want to move people forward. What’s your experience been on the empathy front with too little empathy, too much empathy as far as what’s effective?
Eric: There’s really an art and a science to empathy. Empathy can be your tonality. If someone’s going through something difficult you want to have a more empathetic tone, you want to kind of lower your voice and be caring and kind. Then if someone is being aggressive and really trying to be difficult, you can raise your tone and get a little more aggressive with them and be a little sharper with how you talked to him. That’s a skill that’s developed over a long time. That’s not just something that you’re going to learn from a book or from a YouTube channel that takes practice. That’s really kind of the first starting point in empathy is really being able to almost mirror what the other person is saying. There’s a really good book called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. He was a FBI hostage negotiator and he talks a lot about empathy. He talks about tactical empathy and being able to mirror what the other person is saying. Being able to repeat the 3 to 5 last words that they said or the key words that they said. So that they feel heard, they feel understood. So that way you’re building that trust and that other person.
Jason: Yeah. I think that’s really the key part for that empathy step is asking questions and then actually listening to the answers. Empathy is about understanding what the other person’s situation is that they’re going through relative to the questions you ask in the solution you provide. It’s kind of like your client that you’re talking about that you’re trying to bring on board where you have empathy for their situation, you understand where they’re at and where you see them going and the struggles they’re facing relative to the goals that they actually want to accomplish. You feel for them and you want to help them out.
Eric: Absolutely. It comes down as well to, to pain or being really being able to understand what your prospect’s pain is and being able to be vulnerable enough to go deep into that pain with them. Because I talk a lot about pain and my podcast and my book and the other articles that I’ve written over the time, and there’s really 3 levels of pain and most salespeople will never get below the first level of pain, which is the surface level of pain. That’s the tactical reason. The reason for the appointment itself my roof is leaking. That’s your surface level pain. That’s the reason for your appointment. Well, a lot of salespeople, they’ll look at that and I’ll say, alright, well, his roof’s leaking. Here’s the solution that we have. We can patch it, we can do an inspection, make sure there’s no mold and everything else like that. But there’s a deeper reason. There’s things that are deeper than that. It’s really your job to be empathetic and to find out what that deeper pain is. Because if you go to level 2, which is your business and financial pain all of a sudden you realize that the homeowner doesn’t have a whole lot of money and the homeowner is thinking, well gosh, if I have to get my roof patched up, what happens if they discover mold up there or other damage? It’s going to wipe me out financially. I’m not going to have any savings left. How am I going to pay the bills, keep the lights on, keep food on the table? I was really counting on that money for X Y Z.
Now I have to spend it on this stupid leaking roof. So that’s really the business financial pain. Then if you’re able to go even deeper than that, what’s their personal pain now? What’s the real issue? What’s affecting them at the heart and the soul level? Going back to the leaking roof example it’s not something that you can put off. The more you put off, the more exponentially more it’s going to cost. By the way, little Johnny has asthma. So what’s going to happen if you keep the roof a roof leaking and the mold keeps growing, you have mold spores floating around the house. What happens if little Johnny gets an asthma attack that he can’t recover from because you didn’t fix that roof. So tapping into that deepest personal level of pain. Then having the empathy where you want to solve that. It’s not just about uncovering all of that to then use it against them. It’s about actually wanting to improve their situation.
Jason: Right. Absolutely. I also talked about using pain. It’s both sides. It’s the Jedi and the Sif. Do you want to use it for good or do you want to use it for evil? Because, depending on who you are, you can use it either way. You could really twist the knife on well do you really want little Johnny to have an asthma attack that he can’t recover from? Right. You can be really evil. Doing it the right way you’re going to say, well, we need to fix this problem so that doesn’t happen and here’s the solution that I can provide for that.
Eric: Yeah. I think that’s 1 of the things where salespeople who give the sales profession kind of the bad connotation are uncovering pain and then using that as leverage and a way to manipulate the client into buying something that may or may not be the right solution but seems to present the right solution. Probably not for the ideal cost or something that they can afford but just leveraging that fear side and the pain so much that they get their way as a salesperson.
Jason: Right and it just creates resentment in the end. There’s a few sales gurus out there that advocate some of the short term sales tactics. But if you really want to build a career in sales and if you want to do it the right way, use pain for good use pain does to solve that issue. If a client’s just kind of wishy washy but they really need what you’re offering and we use a little bit of that pain to push them over to get them to commit. But if it’s not the right thing for them, don’t use pain as a point of leverage just to me a sale. That’ll never work long term because even if you do get the sale today, they will wake up in the middle of the night or a couple days later or talk to their family and somebody will point out or they will realize what happened once the spell wears off. Then they’d be really angry whether they can return the item or cancel or whatever. Or they just go online, now that that’s just easy to do. It was easy a while ago, actually, I guess not that long ago where you could do some bad stuff to people, our sell things to prospects who didn’t really need it or want it without much ramification. Because while maybe there’s BBB at the time, the Internet, before it became popular and things like Yelp it was hard to really be impacted by some bad sales practices. Not like now it’s really hard to hide now.
Eric: Absolutely. There is no hiding. They’ll have secrecy. If you’re unethical, you will be found out
Jason: Eventually it’ll crumble. So then on the other side of the empathy conversation, we’re talking about how to be empathetic and digging deep and finding their pain. Then there’s the other side of salespeople who just don’t have any empathy. Not even just no empathy and they’re gonna use what they find out for evil, but they fundamentally just don’t even care about their prospects. Have you seen that in your, your previous careers or the times with salespeople?
Eric: I have. Those people just don’t last very long. Honestly, sales is a people profession. If you don’t care about people, you don’t have any business being in sales. Go be an accountant, go be an engineer where you don’t have to deal with people on a sales level.
Jason: Sure. You’re not solving sales problems, you’re solving other problems. I think it’s interesting. I think 1 key aspect that’s important for empathy to be really successful as well, and I talk about this a lot, is that you have to have some understanding of what the person’s gone through. Even if you haven’t gone through that same exact thing. Like I will never be a mom with kids and going through a certain situation. But maybe I’ve gone through similar situation, whether it’s financial, whether it’s health, whatever that might be, and some kind of empathy for what they’re going through because I can understand it. That doesn’t always have to mean that you’ve dealt with a lot, that you’re older so that you’ve seen lots of things. I mean, there’s younger people who have gone through some life and it makes them really good at working with someone in a similar situation.
Whether mental health or whatever, selling something. They’ve been in that prospect shoes, just certain level. I remember I was working with a team of salespeople, this was a long time ago. We’re helping people who were in foreclosure avoid their auction and help them fix their situation, keep their home, get into various programs. It was interesting because most of the sales team that had been hired before I got there were early 20 some things, many of them still living at home with their parents. Then you have this family on the phone who’s crying because their house is going to auction. They literally didn’t even know how to respond because they had no idea what that was like. Nor did they understand what the people were going through and it was just a giant fail. They weren’t very successful.
Eric: You do have to have it a little bit of life experience in order to be able to empathize with people. Cause some kid that’s had a silver spoon that’s late teens, early 20s is not going understand on any level what a family is going through, going to lose their house. But there does come a certain level where yeah, I understand that really sucks. I’ve never been through that situation. But let me try to empathize with you the best that I can.
Jason: Yeah. Even if I haven’t been in your shoes, I know how my product or service helps someone like you in your shoes and the goal of what it is and where I want you to be as a result of this in a more positive, better situation.
Eric: Absolutely. A lot of times like that comes down to framing the call and the beginning, especially if you don’t have any experience with that situation. Say it’s this is where you are at right now? Where do you want to be and what are the steps that it’s going to take to get there?
Jason: Yeah. When you take that approach, that’s more of a almost life coach mode, therapist mode where it’s not about me giving you the steps. Yes, I have a potential solution, but it’s about you, Mr. Prospect with your goals and your desires and where you want to be. Then I’m going to facilitate it. But I don’t have to tell you where you need to go. You know where you want to go. I’m just going to help you get there.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely that’s really what it comes down to for a lot of different things that people sell. It’s not that way for every sale, but it’s that way for the majority of them. The best sales are the ones that you’re leading the prospect, but they think that they’re doing it on their own. They’re coming up with the idea on their own. So I have a quote “sales is about leaving a prospect on a journey of your choosing while let them come up with the solution on their own that you created for them”.
Jason: Just like being in front of a therapist. A good session with a salesperson, therapy, life coach, whatever that is, is about the professional side who you are in all of those roles, asking some questions, getting the conversation going, and then the other person doing most of the talking and discovery. So for people listening for sales reps across all industries when it comes to the empathy side, anything else you can think of that’s impactful, helpful, know that’s useful for them?
Eric: I think the biggest thing as far as empathy
Jason: And/or the pain steps. It’s all kind of in the discovery questions. It’s a lot about asking those right questions to discover it. For example what do you use or what do you say or what have you found works well when relaying the empathy step to somebody that you care and you want the best for them versus just there to sell them crap they don’t need?
Eric: You really need to make it known up front or you need to let them know if this product is great for you, if this product works for you, then let’s move forward. If it’s not appropriate for you, that’s fine. We’ll shake hands and we’ll still be friends. As long as you let them know I’m looking for your best interests here. I want what’s best for you. If I don’t get a sale out of this, fine. I have a thousand other people in my pipeline that will buy from me. But if it’s not appropriate for you, that’s okay. Yeah, I think that’s a key step, is making sure you relate to them somewhere in the beginning part, maybe after the rapport kind of opening section. Is that your goal isn’t necessarily to sell every person your widget. Your goal is to help people improve their situations. If it makes sense, great. If not, for me if it’s not a good fit, I will give them some steps, some instructions, some ideas, some places to go, recommendations of where they should go or should or should not do. Like stop calling all these places because nobody’s going to have what you need and you need to just go down this path instead.
Jason: Absolutely. Perfect. Well, Eric, I appreciate this sharing. It’s so tough to cover this, the rapport and the empathy and all these various steps, the pain levels. I know you touched on your 3 levels for the pain. But uh, obviously, I know you well enough to know there’s articles, videos, podcasts, training sessions, probably hours and hours just on that on my side. I appreciate you taking the time covering this on the surface and being a part of this and on this journey to help transform kind of what the sales is all about in the community at large.
Eric: Absolutely. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk with you today, Jason. This has been awesome. I really like what you’re doing and I think you and I are both making a positive impact on the sales industry.
We’re doing what we can, we’ll just keep fighting and keep pushing together in our own ways and doing what impact we can. For everyone listening, like I said, Eric has given me his links.
I’ve got them in the show notes. There’ll be a transcription of this whole recording available so you can reread through it, find some gems. There’s things that we talked about. If you wanted to see the info on it, and you didn’t get a chance to take notes make sure to check that out. Also, subscribe, rate, share this with everyone. I keep saying this, but one of the things that’s important to me and the mission that both Eric and I have in our own separate paths is that we just want to change the sales community. So please make sure to share this with anybody you know, that’s in sales. Thinking about sales in a sales leadership management role. Do what you can to help shift that conversation towards what sales should be about, which is service to people, to the prospects and helping them off in a better situation. Make sure to subscribe everywhere that the podcast is that. But until next time, always remember that everything in life is sales and people will remember the experience you gave them.