In sales training, much of the existing content focuses on systems and processes. This content is important; however, many sales teams could benefit from a focus on the relationship between the salesperson and the client or prospect — particularly when it comes to applying that knowledge in “real life” scenarios.

Creating an emotional connection with clients can make a significant difference in growth potential and customer loyalty. For instance, after a “major bank” introduced a credit card geared toward millennials and designed “to inspire emotional connection,” it saw an increase of 70% in its millennial user base and overall account growth of 40%.

In order to know how to emotionally connect with customers, salespeople need to have the tools to do so. Emotional intelligence is one effective tool. Let’s take a look at what emotional intelligence is and how you can incorporate emotional intelligence into sales training at your organization.

Client Rapport

The two primary components of client rapport are “an enjoyable interaction” and “personal connection.” Training sales employees on these elements can help them build personal connections and create enjoyable customer experiences.

Trust is critical in any relationship, and a client relationship is no different. Clients must trust that salespeople have their best interest at heart. It also helps to understand where they are coming from. Who are they? What do they really need? What solutions can your organization provide that will solve their problems? If clients know sales reps have a solution for them, they will be more interested in hearing what they have to say and deepening the relationship.

Finally, we tend to trust those who are similar to us. During a conversation, if a salesperson realizes that he or she has lived in the same city as the client (as an example), building on that shared experience is a great way to develop rapport.

Emotional Intelligence

In order to emotionally connect with prospects or clients, salespeople must be able to recognize and understand their emotions and others’ emotions — what’s known as emotional intelligence (EQ).

According to Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, express and understand the emotions of others and ourselves. It consists of five components:

  • Self-awareness: the ability to recognize and understand your emotions and how they affect others.
  • Self-regulation: the ability to control your emotions and your impulses.
  • Internal motivation: the positive emotions and efforts you use to drive yourself to achieve your goals.
  • Social awareness: also known as empathy, the ability to recognize and understand emotions in others.
  • Social regulation: the ability to handle conflict effectively, manage relationships and build networks.

Connecting Client Rapport and Emotional Connections

So, how can developing emotional connections help salespeople develop client rapport? Better yet, how can sales leaders effectively teach this skill to their teams? Here are some ideas to consider.

The Initial Meeting

It is important for salespeople to look for similarities with their prospects and clients to build trusting relationships. In order to do so, they must have the self-awareness to recognize their own emotions and the social awareness to recognize their client’s emotions.

Listening and Understanding the Client

Part of deepening client rapport is making clients feel like they are heard and understood. Even if the salesperson and the client have connected on similarities, the salesperson must dig deeper to make sure he or she understands the client’s needs. To do so, the salesperson must use social awareness to recognize the client’s emotions and then social regulation to empathize and understand those emotions.

Connecting Emotions to Solutions

At this point, the salesperson should have developed rapport and an understanding of the client. He or she has shared stories and, by listening well, felt and seen the emotions connected to those stories (social awareness). Now, it is time to recall those stories to help connect the client to the solution (social regulation).

Gaining Commitment

While emotions are still fresh and the salesperson has reminded the client of how he or she reached this point, the rep has the opportunity to gain commitment to his or her recommended solution(s). Using social regulation and leveraging the previous discussion will confirm that commitment.

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you and your team continue your journey to client rapport:

  • Don’t focus on the product or service but, rather, on building the client relationship. The sale will likely happen naturally with more dedication and commitment from the client.
  • It’s important for salespeople to be aware of their own emotions before attempting to understand the emotions of others, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Misinterpreting someone else’s emotions can have adverse effects.
  • Salespeople should make sure they understand the basics of emotional intelligence and their own emotional connections to your organization’s product or service before using the same tactics with their clients and prospects.
  • Practice makes perfect! Review common scenarios with your team to make sure they are comfortable and confident using their new skills.

Building client rapport can be difficult at first, but it’s easy once you are used to the techniques. Emotional intelligence is a great way for salespeople to gain commitment from clients and deepen relationships as they get to know their prospects and customers and what emotionally drives them.

Emotional intelligence is not something that is learned overnight. Your team members must practice until they are able to identify and manage the emotions of themselves and others. Doing so will create success in their client relationships and their sales.