5 Tips to Building Rapport on a Cold Call

Jun 22, 2020
Author: sujan patel

Rapport building is vital to the sales process since we want to do business with people we like and feel connected to. But on the average cold call, you may have fewer than 30 seconds to give prospects a compelling enough reason to continue engaging with you. How can you even begin to forge a relationship in such a short period of time?

Fortunately, building rapport on cold calls is easier than you might think. But it’s more than making small talk or asking about the weather. Here are five tips that’ll help you build stronger rapport on your next sales call:

Tip #1: Be Prepared 

It’s easier to start a conversation about shared interests and experiences when you know what you have in common with the other person. So be prepared by doing some research on your prospects’ background:

  • Check out their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Who do they follow? What kinds of content are they sharing? Do you have any mutual connections, such as past employers or former coworkers?
  • Find out what they’re interested in. Look also for evidence of their hobbies, activities, or interests. Do they volunteer? Do they have pets? What are they passionate about outside of work?
  • Where do they live? If it’s a city you’ve traveled to or plan to travel to in the future, you may be able to build rapport by sharing an experience you enjoyed in their hometown or asking for tips on what you should check out when you visit.

Just be careful to observe the fine line between building rapport and coming across as creepy. It’s one thing to ask for Austin restaurant recommendations for your next trip – it’s much less appropriate to kick off your cold call with something like, “I see you were at Franklin Barbeque on 11th St. last Thursday night…”

Tip #2: Ask Relevant Questions 

Asking questions builds rapport by engaging the person on the other end of the phone. Remember, you aren’t just trying to blast your pitch out before your prospect hangs up. You’re having a conversation, and as such, it needs to be a two-way street. 

By asking questions, you demonstrate that you’re truly interested in understanding what the prospect needs, proving that you’re interested in more than just making the sale. A few sales discovery questions that’ll help you hone in on their needs and pain points include:

  • What are your goals and timeline?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • What are your main obstacles in carrying out the plan?

Just be careful not to overload your prospect with questions. Intersperse your questions with statements to avoid coming across as too aggressive.

Tip #3: Speak Like a Human Being 

You aren’t a sales machine, so speak like a normal person. You’ll find that it’s much easier to build rapport when you’re willing to show a little personality. Incorporating humor can help as well, as can making jokes at your own expense (if you can do so in a way that sounds warm instead of harsh).

That isn’t to say that you should wing it when it comes to cold calling. It’s still a good idea to prepare ahead of time and know the points you want to make. But even if you’re using cold call scripts, let your personality come through. Let the conversation flow naturally, and make sure your words and tone demonstrate your genuine interest in the prospects’ needs.

Here are a few pointers to try if your cold call delivery has become too robotic or wooden:

  • Modulate the pitch of your voice as you’re speaking. If you’re using sales scripts, it’s easy to fall into a monotone delivery. Real people vary their tone constantly in conversation.
  • Don’t be afraid of “ahhs” and “umms.” Filler words like these aren’t great if you’re giving a speech, but they’re a natural part of normal conversation. If you remove them from your cold call pitch entirely, you could risk coming across as too polished and unrelatable.
  • Use confirmations to reassure your prospect that you’re listening. Expressions like, “I see” or “mmm hmm” make it sound like you’re actively engaged in the conversation – not just plotting out what you’ll say next.

Tip #4: Listen with Empathy 

There’s active listening, and then there’s listening with empathy. Listening with empathy actually goes above and beyond active listening, because you’re working to process information on two levels: what’s being said and why.

To start using empathy more effectively, make sure you’re letting the prospect lead the conversation. Nothing kills rapport more quickly than getting pushy towards a close. As you’re listening, try asking yourself:

  • What is the motivation behind what they’re saying?
  • What do you notice about how the person is speaking?
  • How does their voice sound? What kind of emotions are you hearing?

It can be tough to try to tune in on this level without missing the specific words the prospect is saying. But by being present and being fully engaged, you’ll build stronger rapport, as well as leave the call with a better understanding of the prospect’s needs and current circumstances.

Tip #5: Send a Genuine Thank You 

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how often salespeople fail to take this simple step.

You may be anxious to jump on your next cold call, but keep in mind that your prospect is still processing the experience of speaking with you even after the call is done. Remember, they weren’t expecting your call, and it’s possible that you’ve left them with new questions or new options to explore. Ghosting them at that point is like inviting them to a party, and then leaving without saying goodbye.

Instead, send a quick “thank you” note as soon as you’ve ended the call. This could be an email message or a print card – what’s most important is that you make the effort to show your appreciation. Use templates to speed the process up, but be sure to customize them to reflect the specifics discussed in your conversation.

Prioritize Rapport Building on Your Next Cold Call

Most successful salespeople are self-improvement junkies who spend hours seeking out new closing approaches or objection-handling methods that’ll give them an edge over others. But all of the fancy techniques in the world won’t move the needle on your sales results if you aren’t first able to build rapport with your prospects. Need help fueling your sales funnel? We can help!

Use your next 10 cold calls as an experiment and test out the tips above. Truly invest in connecting with your prospects as people, and pay attention to what works for you in this process and what doesn’t. Continually iterate your approach, and in time, you’ll be able to identify your own “secret sauce” when it comes to quickly and effectively building relationships with new sales prospects.

Sujan Patel is a partner at Ramp Ventures & co-founder Mailshake. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.