What if you could be building rapport with anyone in sales?
It might sound too good to be true. But actually, the science shows us that it’s possible.
In most selling situations, salespeople are acting in ways that inadvertently repel prospects from the very start. And since prospects are usually too nice to tell us what we’re doing wrong, we salespeople often have no idea what we’ve said or done to lose the opportunity.
Most salespeople go through their entire careers without ever fixing the problem. Don’t be one of those salespeople.
Instead, learn the keys to building rapport with anyone in sales. There are a few simple steps to building rapport with any prospect or customer—and it doesn’t require being hilarious or super charismatic.
In this video, I’m going to show you the six scientifically proven steps to building rapport with anyone in sales. Check it out:
Building Rapport Video Summary:
Step #1 to Building Rapport: Match vocally.
Most salespeople hardly pay attention to matching their prospects vocally, whether it’s on the phone or in person. But every single prospect has a distinct vocal style. Maybe they’re really loud, they speak quickly, or their voice is soft and gentle.
Whatever the case, if you come into a conversation with the exact opposite vocal style, you’re starting off on the wrong foot.
Instead, listen to how your prospect sounds and match their vocal style. Otherwise, the prospect is going to unconsciously feel a disconnect and put their walls up.
Scientific studies have reinforced this over and over again. When we match someone vocally, we start to get on the same page and build rapport.
I’ll give you an example from outside of sales. Just the other day, I was with a doctor who was speaking really loudly to me, just feet away. Immediately I thought to myself, “I’m not feeling comfortable in this situation.” I can tell you, I won’t be going back to that doctor again. This is what’s happening in sales situations all the time. And in sales, personal connection is everything.
Pay attention to matching your prospects vocally and you’ll start building rapport.
Step #2 to Building Rapport: Match vibe.
Matching the vibe of your prospects is the other side of the coin. Vibe refers to pretty much everything besides voice. Does the prospect move around quickly? Use lots of hand gestures? Shake your hand in a death grip? Or does the prospect move slowly and deliberately, and have a gentle demeanor?
Pay close attention to all these aspects of your prospects’ vibe and start to match them.
Some people dislike this advice and protest, “You’re telling me to be a different person with each and every prospect!” But the point is not to give up who you are. Rather, keep your core personality intact but just make slight adjustments to match vibes in selling situations.
It’s amazing how immediately disarming it is when we start to match vibes. If you’ve ever seen a psychologist on TV, you may have noticed how they match the patient in front of them. That’s exactly what we want to do from a sales perspective.
Step #3 to Building Rapport: Break the pattern.
If you’ve read some of my other articles, then you’ve heard me talk about breaking the pattern. This is one of the most important ideas when it comes to building rapport in sales.
In most selling situations, the prospect has probably met with 20 other salespeople in the course of that week, either by phone or in person. If you act just like those 20 other salespeople, you’ll never get through to the prospect.
When you behave similarly to other salespeople, it immediately makes prospects put up walls. Instead, you want to break the pattern of what the prospect expects you to do. Do the exact opposite of what other salespeople are doing. Try to constantly break the pattern, particularly at the start of your interactions with prospects.
Let’s take the example of how a salesperson typically starts a phone call. Most salespeople are starting sales calls with some version of, “Hey, George! Marc Wayshak here! How are you today!?” This salesy opening is totally expected and makes prospects put their walls up. Building rapport isn’t about magic. It’s just about not being perceived as salesy and making the prospect feel comfortable with you.
So the next time you start a sales call, change it up. Break the pattern by slowing down your speed, lowering your tone, and sounding a little bit more human. Use a line that sounds different, such as, “Hi, George. Marc Wayshak calling. How have you been?”
The science actually shows that asking “How have you been?” at the start of a sales call is far more effective than any other line.
Step #4 to Building Rapport: Focus on them.
I used to have a mentor who would always tell me that prospects only listen to one radio station. You know what that radio station is? WIIFM. What’s In It For Me.
Prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about the fact that you need to close a sale. They don’t care about your life. They don’t even care about your product. They certainly don’t care about your company. I hate to say it again, but they don’t care about you.
All they care about is themselves.
When salespeople start calls by talking all about themselves, their product, or their company, the prospect immediately starts to tune out.
You’ve been there yourself, I’m sure.
If you’ve ever been a buyer and the salesperson was just talking about himself, then you know that all you want to do is get the heck out of that conversation. We need to change the focus of our conversations from talking about ourselves to talking about prospects. Focus on them.
Even when we do talk about ourselves, we need to do it within a frame that still focuses on them, the challenges they want to overcome, and the goals they want to accomplish. At the beginning of a conversation, when we’re stating the purpose of our call, we want to give them some insight that’s actually helpful to their own business.
Try starting your calls by saying something such as, “George, the reason for my call is that I work with a lot of companies that come to me when they’re struggling with x, y, and z.” Then, talk about those key challenges and engage the prospect by asking, “Does any of this ring true to you?” or “Does this make sense?”
Even when you’re doing your presentation, focus on how your solution is going to solve the challenges that they have already discussed. Be 100% focused on what they care about, which is themselves.
Step #5 to Building Rapport: Repeat and rephrase.
Chris Voss, a hostage negotiator, recently wrote a book called Split the Difference. He talks about how in hostage situations, it’s a best practice to create rapport by repeating and rephrasing what the perpetrator says during negotiations.
There’s also a lot of sales research that shows that when a salesperson repeats and rephrases what the prospect tells them, the prospect begins to feel more connected to the salesperson. It makes the prospect feel heard and listened to, and allows the salesperson to dig more deeply to get more information.
Let’s say a prospect says something along the lines of, “This is a huge problem for me.” You can reply, “A huge problem?” and let them open up more. “Yes,” the prospect might say, “it’s such a huge problem because…” By simply repeating a key phrase, you got the prospect to give you even more information.
Once you’ve started to gain a deep understanding of their problems, you can rephrase what they say with something like this, “So, George, if I’m hearing you correctly, what you’re saying is, A, B, and C are your key challenges. Is that correct?” Let them say, “Yes, that’s exactly right,” or, “No, actually, A and B were right, but C, not so much. Let me tell you about what that key challenge is.”
What showing that we’re really paying attention.
By repeating and rephrasing, salespeople can start building rapport earlier on in the sales cycle, while gaining more insight into the mind of the prospect. This is really powerful. So start to repeat and rephrase what your prospects are saying to build a much deeper rapport.
Step #6 to Building Rapport: Use feedback loops.
Feedback loops are another scientifically proven way of building rapport on a deeper level with your prospects. These loops are most effective when you’re presenting or when you have to go on for, let’s say, 45 seconds of talking, but you want to rope prospects back into the conversation.
If you’re in the presentation phase and you’ve just finished describing a particular feature of your solution, you might say, “George, this feature is going to ensure that you’re solving problem A that you just mentioned. Does that make sense?”
The prospect will reply, “Yeah, that does make sense,” or, “No, that doesn’t make sense.” Either way, your feedback loop—the little question you asked to get the prospect’s feedback—did exactly what it was supposed to do. It let you gauge how the prospect was feeling and gave you the opportunity to clarify what you had just said.
Other little questions to try include: Does that work for you? Do you see what I’m saying? Is that OK? Right? Is this all making sense?
These questions engage the prospect and prevent you from getting stuck in a monologue that ultimately leads to losing their attention. You never want to be in a situation where you’re just talking, and talking, and talking without interjecting some feedback loops throughout. What you’re going to find is that it ensures the prospect is with you the whole way through.
So there you have it. Now you know six scientifically proven steps to building rapport with anyone in sales. I want to hear from you. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share down below in the comments section to get involved in the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.