How to build rapport

Rapport is one of the key ingredients you need to be successful in the sales process. In this article, we delve into how to build rapport with your potential clients.

What is rapport?

Before, I go more into detail about how to build rapport, let’s start at the beginning – what is it? Rapport is something which happens when two people start to feel a connection or an ‘I like you’ feeling. This happens at the subconscious level and is linked to our pre-historic need to quickly evaluate whether someone is a friend or a foe. You will know when you are in ‘rapport’ with someone because you will find yourself unconsciously mirroring and matching the other person – e.g. you may turn slightly towards each other, you may cross your legs in the same way. To create a sale with a potential client you need to have good chemistry, and this means you must have developed rapport within the sales process.

Consciously mirroring and matching does not work

The problem is that many blogs, and books on the subject of communication and interpersonal skills make the mistake of saying you can build rapport by mirroring and matching – i.e. mirroring and matching the other person’s pitch, tone of voice, body language etc. No, No, No, No. If you do this, and it isn’t natural, it will feel fake, and the other person will subconsciously pick up that you are trying to deceive them.  That’ll erode any natural rapport you had started to build. Mirroring and matching happens as a result of rapport being present. Not the other way around.

How to quickly build rapport with a prospect

To quickly build up rapport with prospects, the first thing you need to do is: LISTEN Yes, really listen to them. Forget about your agenda, put yourself in their shoes and paraphrase and summarise what they are saying to show that you have really understood them. If all you do is this, you will be well on your way to building rapport. The next step is, while you are listening (remember listening really is key), take time to explore and find areas of common interest, views, beliefs, values and attitudes. The real cherry on the cake technique is to then to flex your language and communication style so that you are speaking the same language as your potential clients. This takes real skill. At the simplest level, use the words which your potential client uses. For example,

  • ‘I’m going to grow profits by 20% this year’
  • then you use these types of words, ‘how are you going to grow profits by 20%?’
  • ‘I will sound out my fellow directors on this problem’
  • then you can use these types of words, ‘what do you think you will hear from them?’
  • ‘I see a time when we will have added 20% to our profits’
  • then you can use these types of words, ‘what else can you see?’

What are your techniques to build rapport with your potential clients?

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