What is rapport? Rapport can be understood as the trust that you have with someone in the moment. Key part being in the moment. Rapport isn’t the trust you’ve built with someone over the years, it’s based on what’s going on in the room right now. If you have rapport with someone, you have their trust in that moment.
Rapport and trust itself are very different things. Trust is something built over time through reputation of reliability and consistency, which is a more logical function. Whereas rapport is the sense of connection felt in the moment which is an emotional function.
Rapport can be understood in more detail, but for our purposes here (discussing sales) we’ll accept the following definition:
Rapport is the trust you have with someone in the current moment, built through demonstrating your understanding of their viewpoints
When You Have Rapport, Communication is Easy
Have you ever met someone and within the hour laughed with them as if you’ve known them for years? The feeling of hitting it off with someone can be understood as rapport with that person.
When you’ve got rapport with someone they feel free to engage with you in an less-restricted manner than without rapport. What happens is, when you build this in-the-moment trust, their defenses go down and they are more open to your suggestions.
When you were in school you likely witnessed some teachers who aim to engage their students by relating to them. Whether by appealing to their (hip, young) culture or making things fun, this can also be understood as rapport building. This is an effective means of getting through to children particularly because what you’re doing is subconsciously communicating the message I’m one of you. (vs I’m your boss so do what I say)
The same effect applies to adults as well; just as the students don’t want to be told what to do but are willing to engage with the teacher who is one of them, people don’t want to be sold to but are willing to engage with someone who can hold a friendly conversation about their product.
Rapport building isn’t about getting people to like you though, it’s about trust and seeing eye-to-eye. People liking you as a result of rapport building is just a nice bonus.
Just as the teacher had to speak their language, you must read the room and speak your clients’ language to build rapport. In person you can even build rapport simply by mirroring someone’s body language, again communicating subconsciously your likeness whether or not you’re similar at all.
When You Don’t Have it, Communication is Non-existent
Have you ever talked to a dear friend about something meaningful to you and ended up frustrated or even heated that they just don’t get it?
It’s not that you suddenly hate your dear friend but that one or both of you are failing to demonstrate your understanding of the others’ viewpoints. In fact it’s not just about understanding the other person but also demonstrating that which facilitates rapport building.
To build rapport you needn’t agree with their viewpoint but you have to at least understand where they’re coming from and demonstrate that.
Rapport’s Role in Business
If you could make someone feel at ease and you’re going to talk to them anyone, why wouldn’t you do that? Developing your rapport-building skills will have positive, pervasive effects in your life outside of business as well.
Whether it’s avoiding conflicts by showing you understand the other party, being more influential by creating a feeling of likeness with your audience, or being a killer salesperson – rapport building will create new opportunities in interpersonal exchanges.
How does this apply to business? Let’s go over a few scenarios where business professionals can utilize their command of rapport:
#1 Building Rapport over the Phone
When selling over the phone it’s massively beneficial to intentionally build rapport. You can create very strong feelings of likeness by using tonality, matching your clients’ cadence and favored language, and more to increase your closing rate.
#2 Building Rapport in Person
In person you have almost limitless opportunity to build rapport from the moment you can see your prospect. Most people aren’t familiar with the concept of rapport so some simple mirroring will go a long way.
By mirroring I mean matching their body language, posture, tonality, facial expression, gestures and other things you could copy. The trick is to do these things without appearing to be mimicking them as that can cause them to feel like you’re mocking them.
People do this naturally, by the way. If you go to your local coffee shop, you can observe that friends naturally and spontaneously match each others’ body language and more. This is a result of rapport as well as a strategy for building rapport.
#3 Building Rapport on Your Website
How do you match someone’s body language on your website? Well you can’t do that of course, so how do you build rapport on your website?
There are less ways to build rapport when you can’t match your prospects directly, but there’s still plenty of chances. Have you ever been reading an article and found yourself particularly comfortable with the tone of the writing?
The key here is to know your audience well and, when possible, demonstrate that you understand them on your site. You can do this with your design, tone of writing, marketing tactics & knowledge of your industry/niche.
#4 Rapport is for More Than Just Sales
This won’t just help sales but also referrals, customer loyalty, and general satisfaction levels. People enjoy being heard and you can make someone’s day better just by listening and trying to understand their viewpoint. Win win!
Overview of Building Rapport
Are you getting a sense of how this applies to sales? When your prospects feel comfortable and not defensive they’ll be more inclined to accept your suggestions and hear you out.
We’ve talked about what rapport is and how you can build rapport through mirroring, sincerely taking an interest in their views, and demonstrating your understanding of those views. For more information on building rapport, see our post on 10 Ways to Build Rapport in Sales.