In my SAP consultancy days a client came to the office for an Export Invoicing demonstration. He arrived wearing flamboyant clothes and with bouffant hair. Both highly irregular in business at the time!
Before the demonstration he thoroughly explained why his Export Invoicing needs were different to those of other companies.
We had one of our best consultants demonstrate the software, alongside an Account Manager. He’d recently configured Export Invoicing for another complex company. He was experienced and knowledgable in the subject matter.
He showed examples of the configuration work he’d done previously, and how this addressed needs that were very similar to Mr Flamboyant’s.
Fifteen minutes into the demonstration things were not going well. The client showed signs of irritation and frustration. The Account Manager interrupted the demonstration and asked the client what was wrong.
Mr Flamboyant looked at him and raised his voice, “you’re consultant isn’t listening to me … we’re different to that. I don’t care what your other client did, show me how this process will work for me.”
Before the Account Manager could answer our consultant jumped in … “What?” he retorted. “No, no, your process is just like theirs.”
And of course while he was absolutely correct – the two systems were almost identical – that didn’t help, it wasn’t the point.
The client then took my sales person to one side, told him the consultant was useless, and that unless we had someone who knew what they’re doing he would leave.
What went wrong here?
On the one hand we had a consultant who wanted to show how the work they’ve done previously was similar to the client’s requirements.
On the other hand we had a client who’d signalled how much he was different, saw things as different, and valued different. He wasn’t going to accept that another organisation’s configuration might work like his.
Our consultant was so busy trying to impress, with his experience and know-how, that he’d missed the foundation needed for influence – matching for rapport.
Yes, rapport, which is not just about – contrary to popular views – matching and mirroring body language.
In this instance our consultant needed to match the client’s difference-focused mindset. And that would have been achieved simply by highlighting differences, not similarities.
When you watch, and listen all the clues for mindset rapport are there. Laid out in the client’s behaviours. You just need to notice and match them.
Think of a time when you’ve lost rapport, or never gained it, with a client. Were you not matching their way of thinking, perhaps:
– Talking details when the client wanted an overview.
– Envisioning the big picture when the client wanted details.
– Pushing harder when the client wanted to pause.
– Over analysing when the client wanted action.
Worth your reflection?