be authentic and build rapport

in Sales Presentation Tips

Building a Rapport by Being Authentic: Part 10 of 15 in Definitive Guide to Making Killer Sales Presentations


(This blog is a 10th in a 15 part series titled ‘Definitive Guide to Making Killer Sales Presentations’. Sign-up now to be the first to receive the full-fledged guide.)


Salespeople have a bad image that they overpromise and underdeliver. And that they are trained to do anything in order to close a sale even going to the extent of lying. Although I have personally never resorted to lying in order to close a deal, I have seen salespeople do that often especially when they’re selling products which don’t require a renewal of any sort. Other times I have seen salespeople making up stats and claims which have no basis in real life.

Any salesperson, who is in the game for the long run, out there to build a brand, a lasting relationship, will always refrain from such practices. Following are some of the things which can help you stand out as authentic whenever you’re giving a sales presentation.

Back up your claims: Not just for your readers or listeners but for yourself and your image. You can’t afford to randomly say “70% of people feel that  Smart TVs make their kids smarter” to a potential buyer of a Smart TV without truly knowing the source of that study and also agreeing with it yourself. Throughout this guide you would see innumerable instances where I have carefully backed up all claims I have made to the best of my knowledge. This helps the readers to a) trust the point I’m trying to make and b) actually deep dive into that subject matter if they wish to. So have those research studies, technical papers ready next time you make a claim. Here’s a quick guide to help you find that relevant research from our friends at Buffer.


Case studies of real customers:

As stated in one of points on the power of social proof in this guide, you can use case studies as a powerful medium to show potential customers what your current customers are doing with your product and how are they using it. This helps the prospect see how they themselves would use this product and also shows that your company or product is being used by a customer similar to them and forces them to think if they’re not losing out on a competitive advantage by not using the product.


Expert Opinion:

Having some sort of an expert who can vouch for your product can sometimes help to clench that deal or remove that irrational doubt from the mind of the customer. If an expert in the field says they like it and it is working for them, there are few reasons to not believe so. At Google, I specifically used to handle implementation strategy for a lot of our clients’ Adwords campaigns and I knew the product so well, I could help out a client even in my sleep. Sometimes during discussions with our clients, if an opinion was required on what product mix to use to achieve a certain marketing goal or how could they maximize ROI on a certain campaign, I was introduced as an expert on those topics and these discussions were then steered by me. Similarly a lot of consulting companies while bidding for projects particularly point out the subject matter expertise and college degrees to showcase the project team members as experts which helps the client trust the company to award the project to them. We all see that is our daily lives as well. Ever been to the gym? Many of you have. You would find a lot of people with great bodies who may give you good advice but how do you know if what worked for them will work for you too? Afterall each body is a little bit different. But a health instructor’s advice is usually trusted without a doubt. That’s why people go for those expensive trainers and nutritionists even though there is no dearth of advice on the internet.


Drive home the point, not just the numbers:

Making beautiful slides is one thing and making beautiful slides which make sense and drive home the point is something totally different.

During the MP3 player revolution in the early to mid 2000s, every MP3 manufacturer was like:

be authentic and build rapport



be authentic and build rapport


be authentic and build rapport


be authentic and build rapport


be authentic and build rapport


be authentic and build rapport


Do you see a pattern there? Everybody wanted to showcase how many GBs their MP3 player had.


Then came the master storyteller and this is what he did.


be authentic and build rapport


Nobody had any idea what GBs is. They still don’t. We don’t go around saying my favourite music collection is 5GB in size. We do however say, I have literally over 2000 songs in my music collection. Steve Jobs noticed that. He noticed to really drive home the entire point of having a big storage is to tell people how many songs they could store on an iPod rather than just how many GBs of data and that’s where iPod’s marketing stood out.

So always focus on driving home the point for your audience. Break it down for them into little pieces of information they can really understand.

Another way you can drive home the point is by using analogies. Saying your car is the fastest horse carriage ever built or like Steve Jobs said that the Apple II was like a “bicycle for your mind”. Analogies make the information more relatable and it is a fun way to use terms which are not buzzword heavy. Steve Jobs could’ve said our computers make you more productive because they help cut down inefficiencies and save time but comparing it to a bicycle for your mind (which is now only walking) is definitely a better and more elegant way to put it.

Now that we understand how being authentic is helpful, we can try to understand how salespeople can build rapport by being authentic.


Building a Rapport with Your Client

Most inexperienced salespeople jump right into their pitch when they meet a client. This alienates most people as they fail to connect and trust the salesperson. At this stage it is highly important to build a rapport with the client.

Rapport can be built by talking about common things and emotions. It can be someone you both know, a common contact or it can be about the common industry you’re both in.

Are they interested in sports? Have they been in the news lately? Have they raised a new round of funding? It is very important to know the individuals and the company as a whole to talk through this point.


Building a rapport with the client helps the client to trust you. Here are a few ways through which you can build a rapport with a client.


Be honest and genuine:


Have you guys heard about Aaron Ross, Author of the book ‘Predictable Revenue’? This guy build a Cold Calling 2.0 inside sales process that helped increase’s revenue by $100M.


Here are some pictures of his family:


When we went with his wife to the Hollywood Bowl

be authentic and build rapport


Their youngest daughter Darcy’s naked picture. Isn’t she cute?

be authentic and build rapport


Darcy with her mom.

be authentic and build rapport


Aaron’s lovely daughters.

be authentic and build rapport

Note: All pictures belong to Aaron Ross and have been used in good faith.


You maybe wondering how did I get a hold of his personal family pictures? Is Aaron my friend? No. Is Aaron sharing these pictures publicly? No. Did I hack into Aaron’s facebook account? Heck no!


Aaron while promoting his latest book ‘Predictable Revenue’ where he teaches future sales leaders on how to increase their sales sends out these emails with personal details from his life which helps all the readers to connect with him in a personal way.  Please go buy his book. It is amazing.


It’s okay to say you had a bad day when they ask ‘how’s it going?’. It is okay to say you’re tensed because you’re a little behind in paying your bills or your health hasn’t been keeping up with you lately. Similarly, if you truly like something about a client, say that. Say you like the tie they’re wearing or say it if you like how fast decision making at their company is. When you’re having conversations, if you don’t know an answer, it is okay to say you don’t know it right then and will get back at an appropriate time. People like genuine people and genuine people are just like you and me. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. We’re not always happy or meet our goals. Clients and prospects like an honest person.


For the same reason, some cold emailing techniques recommend writing personal, lower caps subject lines to improve open rates. You can decide for yourself, which email would you open: one which says ‘Introducing X: Answer to your Business Problems’ or one which says ‘richard, trying to connect…’


Look at how Aaron Ross writes his email subject lines:

be authentic and build rapport

A great way to appear honest and genuine is to be personal in your conversations. Sharing relevant problems and anecdotes is a total yes.


Have an open body language and be approachable:

We’ve done an extensive post just on body language but here are a few quick tips. Smile, make eye contact and shake hands firmly to give an expression of being open, confident and friendly. This helps prospects to think they can talk about their problems openly and not get judged. On the other hand, appearing needy is the worst thing a salesperson could do. Appearing needy sends out this signal to the prospect that all the salesperson cares about is selling his product and their interests are probably last on their list of priorities. Don’t be that guy.


Assist the prospect through smart conversation:

For the prospect to open up and talk about their problems, we discussed having an open body language. Alongwith that, ask open ended questions to really find the problem and understand your prospect better. What’re open ended questions? Questions which have no right or wrong answer. Say instead of asking, ‘Do you like the current software you’re using?’, you ask ‘Tell me more about how you use this software and the problems you face’.

There are 2 major benefits to take this approach: one, you get to know a lot more about the prospect and their problems which can immensely help you later on while you’re closing or negotiating and two, you can customize your pitch to suit your prospect’s exact problems leaving your prospect satisfied with the entire process.


It is very important to let the prospect feel comfortable in discussing their problems, welcomed in their ideas and approach,  be understood well as far as their exact pain points are concerned, be assisted through the entire decision making process by being fully aware of their choices’ pros and cons and getting recognised for who they are and the value they brought to the entire decision making process.

To be able to do that, another critical thing is to never shoot down any of their ideas. Always build upon them. If you disagree with something, clearly say out your reason for disagreement and provide an alternate solution.


Give before asking:

Always try to help your clients without/before asking for anything in return. This helps to build a relationship which not solely based on just transactions and goes much further. People who like you would hear you out even if they don’t have that need in mind at that time specifically and would be more than happy to refer a friend or a colleague in return. They would wait for an opportunity to help you out and would act as great word-of-mouth evangelists. Help them in finding a job, help them in finding a plumber or even a date, anything goes. We’ve written a detailed post on this as well.


Using Humour:

Jasmin Bergeron and Marc-Antoine Vachon, two researchers from the School of Business and Management, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada, as recently as 2008, studied the buyer-seller dyads of more than 400 finance sales professionals. In their paper titled The effects of humour usage by financial advisors in sales encounters”, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 26 Iss: 6, pp.376 – 398, they found thatA financial advisor’s good sense of humour has a positive impact on the clients’ perceptions of service quality, trust, satisfaction, purchase intentions, and word‐of‐mouth propensity.”, clearly highlighting the importance of using humour to improve sales conversations.


Humour is often the most underrated sales presentation tactic. Most people are afraid to crack jokes in serious client conversations and that is where the more salespeople fail to make a connection. Nobody likes to sit through a dry presentation, a joke here or there helps boost your confidence and lighten the overall mood giving you some brownie points. It also helps to make your point more powerful and your presentation memorable. No wonder corporates are waking up to this fact as shown by this study here which says about 80% of executives think that humour is key part of their cultural fit.


Don’t we all remember the amazing Dollar Shave Club video? The video helped Dollar Shave Club generate over 19M views and more than $10M in venture funding and that was not because their blades are f**king great!


Humour helps to reduce tension by increasing your overall blood flow, improves overall concentration level and is quite helpful to wake people up before you make that important point in your sales presentation.


Humour is typically of 3 types: Visual (in the form of cartoons or videos), verbal (spoken jokes) and practical (or enacted jokes either played by the presenter or on someone else as a demonstration).


Typically salespeople should stick with visual and verbal humour to get their points across and stay away from the more risque practical jokes unless it really drives your point across and you know for sure that it won’t offend anyone and you would be able to pull it off smoothly.


Here are some useful resources on visual jokes (videos, cartoon) and verbal jokes (here, here and here)


What jokes are okay to use?


Best jokes to use would be jokes that are not overused, are actually funny, relate to the customer’s context in some way, is ideally personal (something which has happened with you or someone you know) and most importantly doesn’t touch on any sensitive topics like salary, politics, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity.


So how do you use humour?


Burt Teplitzky, who once used to head the corporate training arm of an improv comedy club, trains salespeople on how to use humour artfully into their product pitches and talks about his ‘punch, point, benefit’ formula here:


He starts off with a joke.


Some investor friends and I have purchased some properties in the Middle East and recently decided to get together and travel to Egypt to learn more about the financial markets.

One of my friends got lost in the desert and became very thirsty. He was approached by a camel rider selling ties and later another camel rider selling shirts. He wanted only water and rejected their sale pitches.

Finally, the camel rider selling the shirts relented to my friend’s plea for water and told him where he could find it. My friend followed the directions to the letter and he found himself facing a young man.

“Water! Do you have any water?” my friend asked hoarsely.

“Plenty of water here,” the young man says to my friend.

“Thank goodness. Let me have some!”

Followed by a punch line:


“I’m sorry, sir,” the young man said. “We don’t serve anyone not wearing a shirt and a tie.”


He then makes the point of the joke, the context:


You should always dress appropriately when you want something.


Ultimately, the audience benefits by learning the below:


What you wear in your country or hometown for meetings may be very different from what other cultures consider appropriate. Before you travel, you should find out how to dress for your meetings and conferences so you don’t accidentally insult anyone or lose a sale.


So go ahead and use humour in your sales presentations and make your presentations relatable and enjoyable. At the same time make sure, that you remember you’re there to sell a product and not get too carried away while cracking jokes either cracking too long jokes (taking up all your time you could spend closing) or cracking too many jokes. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is not serious about the job at hand i.e. sell.