During a sales training presentation a few years ago a sales manager for the group I was working with asked me a question. “How much time, is too much time spent in the home building rapport with the customer?” My answer surprised him a little. I replied that weaker, less confident salespeople spend too much time building rapport and strong, confident salespeople spend less time building rapport. That answer may seem contradictory to what most sales trainings would say, so allow me to explain.

Stay Out of Rabbit Holes

It's easy to have these “chit-chat” conversations with people. It’s easy to talk about their kid’s ballgames, which sports teams they like, their pets, hunting, fishing etc. I’ve never hunted a day in my life. Never left my house with a rifle and went out in the woods and tried to kill anything. Might sound weird for a guy from Kentucky, but it’s true. However, I can carry on a conversation about hunting with nearly anybody for 10 to15 minutes and you’d never know that about me if I didn’t care to share it. I have some friends that hunt and also my wife’s family – I know enough to be dangerous. You don’t want to go hunting with me, though.

If you’re not focused on the task at hand, it’s easy to go down one of these “rapport building rabbit holes.” You’re talking because their talking and they’re talking because you’re talking. It feels polite, nice, productive, and like you are really building a great connection. And you might be – you also might be talking yourself out of a sale. There are two areas of a sales call where you run a risk of getting a case of the “jabber jaws”. That is in the beginning when you’re trying to build trust and make a connection and near the end of the call when things are being wrapped up. Keep an eye out for your customer’s body language telling you it might be time to move this thing along. Are their eyes still focused on you during the discussion, or are they starting to wander around the room a bit? Is their chest still facing you, which signals engagement, or are they starting to turn one way or the other. Lastly, glance at their feet. If both feet are pointing at you, your good. If one, or both feet are pointing away from you, proceed with caution.

Make the Transition

Having a mechanism in place to help transition yourself from the rapport building/trust phase of the call to the need’s identification portion is a good idea. One idea would be something like the following Call Transition Statement; “The way this usually works is, I will walk around the property, take some detailed measurements, come back to you, to discuss product options and then determine a price. How does that sound?” This is a very simple, yet powerful tool for you to use for in-home sales calls. Your prospective customer will understand the process, which should make them more comfortable and lower any anxiety they may be feeling. And you will have a better chance of controlling the overall sales process. Anything that is good for the buyer as well as the seller, I would advise you to give serious thought to a statement like this to use during your in-home calls.

I was in Dayton, OH a few weeks ago conducting a sales training presentation. While covering this topic, one of the in-home sales professionals shared a story. A few weeks prior he was making a sales call, and everything seemed to click with the homeowner. They shared a few common interests, told a few relatable stories, and he felt like they really hit it off. The homeowner shared early in the discussion that he was not going to be making a purchase that evening, so the salesperson was not surprised to get some hesitation when he asked for the sale. He left the home feeling very confident in the relationship he had, the rapport they had built and felt sure he was going to get this job. He was very surprised to learn this homeowner elected to do business with somebody else. His response to me, and all his co-workers during the training was “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I more than likely talked myself out of a sale that day.”

Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Strive to build rapport and trust, but don’t stay in that part of your sales call too long. The homeowner is busy, and you are busy. Learn to move the call process along to the reason they have you there in first place. Happy Selling!