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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2005

Connecting by Phone

Listening and building rapport are key when using the most powerful sales tool — the telephone

The most-effective sales tool we have in the lending industry today is the telephone. In our industry, it is essential to learn to use the phone to effectively reach customers, clients, associates and all those on whose success you depend.

A study several years ago found that facial expressions provide the most information when communicating with others. Because we cannot see prospects’ facial expressions when communicating by telephone, we need to master our ears to develop listening skills and rapport.

Remember, every phone call is an interruption. The people you’re calling are reading a report, getting ready to leave for lunch, thinking of a brilliant solution to a nagging problem and you got in the way when they picked up the phone.

As a courtesy, then, your call should begin with a 10-second commercial about who you are, why you’re calling and a request to proceed. With this quick introduction, you should do several things:

  • Use the people’s names; 
  • Identify yourself clearly and immediately;
  • Use a few words to describe yourself and your company; and
  • Give them permission to get rid of you if they so choose.

Here’s an example: “Hi, Frank. This is Joe Smith over here at Mortgage Brokers. We work with folks on their residential home loans, and I’m calling as a courtesy to see if there’s a basis for you to learn about how we’re saving. Do you have just a moment to talk?”

If people say it isn’t a good time, they’ll suggest a better time more often than not, and you’ll end up with a phone appointment. More typically, you’ll get a grunt that gives you the go-ahead. Or you’ve saved valuable time by learning that they were totally uninterested. And that’s OK — you can deal.

‘Basic people truths’

Remembering these “basic people truths” can help you frame each call to make it a success:

People want to feel important and to be appreciated;

  • People like people who are like themselves … and they tend to want to be agreeable;
  • People do things for their reasons, not yours;
  • People want to be right;
  • People like to talk more than they like to listen;
  • People do not so much resist change as they resist the uncertainty that change brings;
  • People like to make their own decisions, wisely or not;
  • People don’t like to be sold anything — but they do like to own; and
  • It is the problem rather than the product that makes the sale.

The questions you ask, the words you use deliberately and the nuances you discover will help move the conversation toward your objective, which could be an appointment, a close for an application or a referral to someone else. As mortgage professionals, we’re in the sales and communications business. The surest way to succeed is to understand these basic truths when we use the phone.

Build rapport

There are two reasons why people will buy from you: 1. You can satisfy their needs or solve a problem with your product; and 2. They feel understood and appreciate how you’ve treated them; you’ve gained their trust and established credibility.

Building rapport helps you gain that trust and establish credibility. Rapport is essentially sharing someone else’s experience. You meet people on their level and place yourself in their shoes.

You’ll recognize rapport with another person by a certain level of comfort — a sense of shared understanding. When people identify with each other, they cooperate. And building cooperation is our business.

There are two techniques for establishing rapport. The first is called pacing, which is the act of becoming like other people to get their attention, friendship or help. When you pace another, in effect you’re saying, “I’m like you. You’re safe with me. You can trust me.” You can pace a number of things: a person’s mood; rate of speech; tone and volume; words and phrases; breathing patterns; and beliefs and opinions.

When you try to act like another person, you may begin to feel many of that person’s feelings. You may intuitively know what to suggest and when to make the suggestion, and you may even begin to anticipate what that person will say.

You can build pacing muscles with this exercise: Watch a TV talk show and practice sitting in the same position as one of the guests. Notice if your feelings change as your position does. Match the guest’s rate of speaking, tone and volume of voice, and practice listening carefully for often-used words, phrases or speech mannerisms.

The second rapport-building technique is called leading. This occurs when you achieve rapport by pacing and the other person follows when you take the next step.

You lead with questions and suggestions, moving the conversation toward your goal. Because others see a mirror of themselves in you, you might find lessened resistance. It’s a powerful tool — use it carefully so that you not only tend to your needs but also meet the other person’s best interests.

Pacing and leading take attention off yourself and onto your client. If you effectively pace and lead, you likely will achieve authentic and ethical persuasion.

Be an active listener

In a classic business-school study, purchasing agents identified poor listening skills as the major shortcoming of salespeople. Another study found that people only hear about one word out of every four spoken to them. It’s how we listen.

Knowing that people are so selective when listening to me, I aim to limit my part of the conversation. My sentences are short, and my words and phrases are colorful and dynamic. I don’t kid myself that they’re picking up any more than one out of four of my words.

Active listening is an effective method in which you consciously try to understand others’ experiences so that you receive their communication as it was intended. It is listening so that you hear, feel and see the way the other people do, reflecting back to them what you understand them to be saying.

Then, too, when you really listen, you can give your prospect a decided lift, create a warm bond and produce genuine rapport. Carl Rogers, a U.S. psychotherapist, believed the major barrier to effective communication is our tendency to evaluate or judge the ideas of others. The way to solve this is empathetic understanding, he said, which is speaking only after accurately restating the other person’s idea and feelings. Salespeople do this all time by saying something such as, “What I hear you saying is …”

Guidelines for good listening

To listen correctly, try to:

  • Focus and concentrate on listening to the people.
  • Limit your own talking.
  • Not interrupt. You could miss an essential point or clue important to the sale.
  • Listen for and mentally summarize key ideas.
  • Listen to the inflection and color of the speakers’ words and emotion of their voice – all the stuff between the lines that clues you to their mindset.
  • Take notes. Jot down the key phrases and words that you will reflect back to them when you speak.
  • Listen to another as though you were required to report almost word for word on the conversation. The weight of that responsibility makes you keenly attentive.
  • Don’t mentally argue, prejudge or jump to conclusions. It diverts your attention because you’re crafting your retort.
  • Increase your attention span. Try tuning into the evening newscast and concentrating on following the anchors as they speak. Time yourself on how long it is before your mind wanders off. I’ll bet you don’t make it past 30 seconds. 

•  •  •

The telephone enables you to become a more-effective communicator and lending professional when you practice the ideas and techniques above. When you actually get in front of clients with whom you’ve talked on the phone, you’ll already understand a lot about them and can watch their faces and body language to either confirm or add to what you know about them. This will help you become more successful in providing the best solution to what they’re looking for.


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