How to Build Rapport and Create Relationships

When it comes to setting yourself up for long-term success, the key is building relationships that result in more repeat business and referrals. But how do you create those kinds of relationships in the first place?

In order to connect with a customer in a lasting way, you need to start by establishing rapport.

What is rapport?

Merriam-Webster defines rapport as a “friendly harmonious relationship … characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”

Put another way, it’s an unstated, but mutually felt connection that forms the foundation of a productive relationship.

For service-based sales professionals, rapport is the gateway to everything you’re looking to accomplish. By making your customer feel comfortable with you, you’re taking the first step to something bigger—a mutually beneficial relationship that will hopefully last for years to come.

How do you build rapport?

Knowing that you want to have rapport with someone is one thing, but actually getting it is another. The thing about rapport is that there is no one catch-all method for building it. Sometimes it happens naturally—almost unconsciously—while, in other situations, it takes a concerted effort to find.

Below, you’ll find a few methods you can use to develop rapport with a prospective client.

Match a prospect’s tone and conversation style.

This is something you’re already doing in your daily life, without even thinking about it. Almost instinctively, you speak differently to a peer than you would a supervisor. You wouldn’t necessarily say the same things to a grandparent that you would to a sibling.

By speaking in a manner similar to your client, you’re effectively telling them, “I’m a lot like you. We want the same things.” Speaking of which, you can also…

Take on a similar posture or stance.

Have you ever been spending time with someone when, suddenly, you notice you’re both sitting with your arms crossed in the same exact way? While it might seem like a funny coincidence, this is actually something we do unconsciously to put each other at ease. There’s even a scientific term for this behavior: limbic synchrony.

When it comes to intentionally building rapport in sales, you can deliberately mirror your client’s posture to encourage feelings of understanding. If your client is sitting up very straight, make sure you’re not slouching. If they’re folding their arms, you might fold yours, too. Just don’t imitate any negative aspects of their body language (such as furrowed brows), or it’ll seem like you’re mocking them.

Though your prospect probably won’t consciously realize you’re imitating them physically, they will notice it on a subconscious level. And, at least to some degree, they should feel like the two of you are on the same page.

Talk about mutually interesting topics.

Small talk is the bread and butter of successful salesmen. For one, if you’re only interested in getting down to business right away, your client might feel slightly put off. After all, they’re a human being, and treating them like just another transaction will not yield good results.

On another level, not taking the opportunity to connect over other topics is a huge missed opportunity, especially if you’re planning to count on this person for repeat business and referrals down the line. So, instead of focusing only on the sale, get to know this person by bringing up some universal topics.

  • If a major event or holiday is coming up, ask if they have any plans to celebrate.
  • Don’t be afraid to fall back on popular subjects like the weather and local sports.

Though these might seem like surface-level conversations, they can lead to deeper topics and, ultimately, help foster a stronger bond between the two of you.

When all is said and done, the more you know about your client, the more you can steer them in the direction of products and services that would be right for them. Plus, with each friendly back and forth, you’re making them feel more comfortable and more understood.

When you put in this extra effort up front, you’ll be rewarded handsomely later on—with repeat business and, hopefully, referrals to your client’s extended network.

Written by Kevin McElvaney

Zealous wordie and reluctant writer of short bios.