Posts Tagged ‘rapport’

Vouching for the Benefits of Rapport

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Eighty-seven in one go!  That’s definitely a record. I got sixty-five in one go last year, and forty-something earlier this year, but I’m very pleased with eighty-seven! I’m talking about the ‘Active Kids Vouchers’ and ‘School Vouchers’ that the large supermarkets give out at this time of year. It’s usually one for every £10 you spend in the store. And all down to rapport and first impressions!

Rapport. The ability to build rapport is such a useful and powerful skill, but one that is often given too little value.

I can recall so many occasions at work when early in the day I passed people in the corridor and they would say “How are you?”, or “How’s things?” – and in the vast majority of instances didn’t really mean it and weren’t at all interested. Because if you reply, “I’m not too good, actually” or “Could be better, really”, they generally don’t stop and show concern or ask what they could do to help.

Some carry on walking having not even heard your response. They weren’t listening because they didn’t really want to know the answer – they were on auto-pilot.

Some hear the reply and carry on walking but verbally respond with something like “Well I hope things get better for you soon”. These people probably think to themselves, “Phew, that was a close shave – nearly had to get into a conversation there …”. They don’t, however, think about what they could do next time to ensure that they don’t get into that same situation again.

Others feel obliged to stop, having heard the response, but aren’t really sure what to say next. Perhaps because it’s too unstructured an area for them, perhaps because of the public location, perhaps because they are busy and need to be somewhere else.

So why do they say it if they’re not interested? They should just say, “Hello”, and stop trying to make out they’re interested when they are clearly not. They have little understanding of rapport.

I used to play a game with our children when they were younger – say 12, or 13 years old. When we stayed at certain hotels and if there was some spare time, I would challenge them to see how many hotel shampoos or bars of soap they could collect. The rules were that they could not take them without permission – the only way they could get them was by asking for them. And in asking for them they could not use deceit – for example, they couldn’t claim that there weren’t any in our room when we got there. And the challenge was to see how many they could get. Often they did very well, and having counted how many they had got (and awarded any promised prize) we then discussed how they did it – and it always came down to building rapport.

My son has since used this to good effect in the “Marks and Spencer Challenge”. This is a family game that takes place annually in York just a few days before Xmas. From about October, my father creates a set of questions, the answers to which can all be found in M&S. (For example, ‘Buy 3 different bags of sweets from the 3 for £1 section, and the person with the highest total of sweets from the three bags wins 15 points’ – so quite detailed questions). Each of his 5 grandchildren then has an hour to complete the questions and tasks. There is an engraved trophy awarded to the winner each year – and my son has won it for the past two years. This is mainly because he first finds the largest group of M&S staff, then explains to them what he is doing and then seeks their assistance. They seem to love the idea and so set off in all directions to get the answers for him! His success is built on rapport.

And the 87 vouchers? I got those on Saturday at a Tesco petrol station. But I didn’t buy £870 worth of fuel, I only bought £30 worth. But I did build a little rapport. There is always something to talk about – which is the skill of rapport. Not the weather, something a little different. It might be commenting about how there are usually two staff there and you hope they are not getting worked too hard , or that all 8 cars being filled up are silver and how often does that happen, or something  about a headline in one of the newspapers. It needs to be a question, not just a statement, so that you interact. And as you leave, if you haven’t already been offered them, you ask for your vouchers. And in this case I was just handed the remainder of a booklet.

So, should you choose to accept it, this is your challenge  – how many vouchers can you get on your next visit to your supermarket, and if you get a goodly amount tell me about it. And, most importantly, what was your rapport building question?

And finally you find a grateful school to accept your vouchers!