The Oasis of Rapport

ROM A marketing manual used in Countrywide's subprime mortgage lending unit:

"Step 3, Borrower Information, is where the Account Executive gets on the Oasis of Rapport . . . The Oasis of Rapport is the time spent with the client building rapport and gathering information. At this point in the sales cycle, rates, points, and fees are not discussed. The immediate objective is for the Account Executive to get to know the client and look for points of common interest. Use first names with clients as it facilitates a friendly, helpful tone."

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining our webcast. Let's get right to the point: One look at our stock performance, and we realize that our sales force has a heck of a journey before reaching anything like the Oasis of Rapport with our clients. In fact, land masses aren't even in the picture for at least the first six or seven steps! And by "steps" we mean "stages," naturally, not walking on terra firma.

Your initial goal must be to establish your client's trust on less sure surfaces. Only then will you have earned your way to the Land Bridge of Mutuality, across which we must all traverse before catching sight of the Isthmus of Possibility. So let us start at the beginning: the Mudhole of Resistance.

Here in the first 30 seconds of the call is where you face the greatest danger. Your client's wariness is like a sucking pit of man-eating muck. Move forward too aggressively and you'll sink deeper and deeper, until nothing but your babbling mouth remains. Don't squander your final opportunity with an unconvincing script—use your imagination or risk going under!

Practice the improvisational art to perfection, and nothing can stop you. Imagine the harshest of rejections, and be ready with at least ten possible rejoinders for each. Your zen-like poise and focus will inspire your client to hold out a stick and say, "Here, pull yourself out of my Mudhole of Resistance. You've earned at least some measure of admiration. I'm ready to hear more."

Don't look for that land bridge yet! You are only as far as the Buoy of Acquaintance, where you will bob in the Waters of Scrutiny until your client has gotten a good look at you. Remember that a first impression runs through several phases. What you seek at this juncture is the Lifesaver of Nicknames. Once you've heard, "You can call me Bob instead of Robert," or "Just call me Kris," you are free to paddle to the Temporary Pier of Marginal Acceptance.

Here you may fall prey to the delusion that you're on sure footing, being that you're on a land-like surface. You would be such a dumbass to do that! You know how piers work: Lots of people pull them in at the end of the season. Just like that you could find yourself at the end of the call. Now you're back in the water, having blown your opportunity to reach the Changing House of Less Formal Repartee.

And if you're not careful, your ignominious return to Waterworld could land you straight into the Rapids of Rejection. And then where will you be? Beached like a half-eaten seal on the Rocks of Bonehead Pitches, my friend.

So let's say you've managed to walk your new pal "Bob" or "Kris" into the Changing House of Less Formal Repartee. Here you may begin the bonding maneuvers that are the NON-OPTIONAL prerequisites to reaching the Oasis of Rapport. Always remember: Repartee is NOT Rapport. It is a strategic give and take, wherein you never EVER outdo your client's attempts at cleverness, no matter how lame they may prove. You can always be banished from the Changing House by way of the Back Door for Losers, you know, where the Speedboat of Retribution awaits to whisk you to the Archipelago of Comeuppance. Just don't go there.

Once the repartee is flowing, your client will escort you out of the Changing House and into the Canoe of Fairly Casual Chatter. This is your golden opportunity to take command of the oars! Let your client provide direction, but you must set the pace. Imagine someone in your head yelling "ROW!! ROW!!!!" The technical term for that yelling person is "coxswain," a word we sure as hell don't know how to pronounce.

Come to terms with the inevitable dead ends and wrong turns your client will take. These are the Eddies of Silliness that all great sales people must endure if they want to reach the finish line and close the sale. The most common of these pointless outings can be grouped as one into the somnolent Keys of Digression, around which you must paddle while your client gasses on about some unfortunate medical condition or untested political theory. But, because you have set a good pace as your own "rowing motivator," your misadventures should be brief. Simply provide mumbling affirmations and always KEEP ROWING!!

Since you haven't been navigating as yet, be on the lookout for dangers such the deadly Atoll of Misgivings, or you may run aground upon the spiky Reef of Mixed Signals. All that work generating casual chatter is just so much water in your canoe as you are now perceived as "disrespectful" and "too familiar." Ouch!

Okay, you've waited long enough. Now is the time to take full control. You are no longer the "cox-whatever-it-is," you are now the Captain of a Mighty Ship! Set a course for the Land Bridge right this instant. Tally Ho, Ahoy Matey, and all that. You've earned your client's respect, now how 'bout a little fear and trembling, right? A little Sturm und Drang as the Krauts like to say.

Announce the harsh punishments to befall those considering mutiny at this point in the journey. Lashed to the mast. Thrown overboard while attached to one of those 20-ton anchors you've got lying around. Shiver me timbers, it's lonely at the bottom of the sea! Arrrggghhh!!

You know what? SCREW the Land Bridge and the Oasis. You've got bigger fish to fry. Roar into the Port of Now or Never. Is it a "Yes" or a "Yes, Pretty Please"?? I haven't got all day, buster. Oh, just shut up and quit whining. YOU heard me!! I didn't get to be an Account Executive by holding hands with you like a little GIRL!!!

I do believe you've made that sale, my friend. With your hefty commission as passage, I invite you to board our Luxury Liner of Winners and enjoy a leisurely cruise to the Isle of Free Sex, where the only currency you'll need is your big fat ego. I am so proud of you people I could spit.