The Apprentice – would you buy from the candidates?


Every year as I witness the new series of the apprentice I’m constantly amazed at how these people can ever succeed in sales when the majority of them are, well let’s just say not very nice people.  Arrogant, vacuous, disingenuous horrors.    I cannot believe that people will want to buy from

For me, I personally believe that a key skill in sales is the ability to be able to build rapport.   If you come across as a pleasant, helpful, personable human being, everything else will fall into place.  Yes, you don’t want to just be calling up prospects to have a pleasant conversation about last nights TV or the state of the weather but if you’re not liked by the prospect they’re not going to care a jot about what you’re selling.

This is even more applicable in phone selling.   You don’t get the same opportunities you get when meeting face to face as a large portion of the usual communication tools (body language, facial expressions, general appearance) are lost so it’s all the more important you do all you can to be liked way before you start thinking about “closing the sale”

So, with that in mind, here’s 5 tips to help you build rapport over the phone, get the prospect on your side and get them buying!

1- Be nice.   This possibly goes without saying but I personally believe the whole self help industry could be summed up with these two words.  Don’t push your own agenda too much, be pleasant, be polite, be approachable, be willing to help.   Even the harshest of prospects will be easier to deal with if you just treat them pleasantly which leads us very “nicely” onto point two

2 – Be appreciative of their time.   For phone selling this is perhaps the most imperative starting point.   So many people don’t respond well to introductory sales calls because so many Telemarketers/telesellers have no consideration for the fact that, essentially they’re barging into someone’s precious time.    I’ll always use phrases along the lines of “are you ok to talk for a short moment”  ”just a very quick call”, “just a quick enquiry”.  Ensure that you formally introduce your company, include a brief couple of words that cover the reason you’re calling and what the benefit is to them then, once you’ve got permission to continue the conversation, do so with a mindset that they’re quite possibly very busy and quite possibly don’t want too much of their time taken up.   Once you’re past this stage you can ease into the questions and further build rapport by offering genuine solutions to their problems but, in the early stages of a call all the prospect is thinking is “I’m busy, what does this person want?”

3 – Match their tone.   This is, to an extent a learned skill but do what you can to gauge their tone of voice and use a similar tone yourself.  If someone sounds busy and rather short with you, don’t wade in with too much enthusiasm.  Likewise, if someone sounds very jovial and humorous, don’t come across as too formal and monosyllabic.  The more the prospect feels you’re “their kind of person”  the more chance you have of success

4 – Use humour (appropriately). Humour, when used correctly is a great uniter of minds, again it’s best to ensure that the person you’re speaking to is likely to be responsive, gauge their tone and use your own judgement to determine whether or not they’re likely to respond to the occasional funny comment.   There’s more details on this in my previous blog post, Make ‘em Laugh 

5 – speak their language.  I don’t mean that literally although obviously that’s a great help.  I’ve tried introducing myself in Kurdish but for the average UK based prospect it rarely gets as good a response as speaking “The queens”.   What I do mean is using the same terminology that they use, not only is this incredibly useful for building credibility, particularly if you’re selling a niche product or service but, from the prospects perspective if you’re using the same words, phrases and abbreviations as them it demonstrates that you’re of a similar mindset.

The important thing here is not to be too overt.  It’s all very well using the word “great” if they use the word “great” but say it too often and it won’t sound too “great” but it might “grate”.

5.5 – Use their name: I figured that this final one deserves a notable mention as people love to hear their name in conversations, just don’t use it too much.  This is incredibly useless of me but I do recall reading of the percentage of impact of using someone’s name in a conversation and how, the impact reduces the more you use it.   I believe it might have been Richard Wiseman, that’s Richard Wiseman in his book 59 seconds but, as I write this I can’t find the copy I’ve got to be able to confirm that.  But, rest assured, names, used minimally can hugely help to build rapport.  People tune in whenever they hear their name but, use it too much and it doesn’t sound genuine.

Hopefully these tips will be useful for you in your daily selling life.  Do pass them on if you feel that’s the case.  If not, just ignore me, I’ll go away eventually

Happy selling!


Dan Smith 
Inspired Business Development
Unit K9 Cradley Enterprise Centre
Maypole Fields
B63 2QB
T:01384 566 078


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