Have you ever met someone for the first time and you immediately felt like you were in tune with each other. You hit it off immediately and feel like you have known them all your life.
Yet there are other times when you meet someone for the first time and you just can’t wait to get away from them. They are full of their own self-importance or they are trying to sell you something. They come across as being really pushy and you certainly don’t want to have anything to do with them.
Selling your products and services and helping customers buy from you are two different things. Selling becomes a show and tell activity where a prospect feels like it’s all about you which definitely means you are not in rapport. Whereas helping a prospect buy from you means the focus is on them instead. They sense the difference.
Successfully helping a prospect buy from you is very dependent on being able to get into rapport first. Building rapport is the number one tool you need in your sales tool box without which you will fail to gain trust and confidence.
Rapport can be learned
Rapport is a natural process and happens all the time. It’s having a sense of connection that makes you and the other person feel as if you have a lot in common and that you understand each other.
Building rapport is easy for some. They have a friendly relaxed conversational style and naturally put others at ease. Others find it difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger and getting into rapport. However, most people can relate to a time where they felt empathy, or tuned into another person even if they are shy or introverted. The point is – we all do it. The problem arises when we need to do it consciously with a prospect we have never met before.
Starting a conversation with a stranger can be very stressful particularly if it’s not something you don’t like doing. You might feel awkward or lost for words which simply adds to your levels of discomfort. The good news is, you can build rapport by finding common ground and developing empathy with others regardless of who you are. Here’s how.
Step 1 – Matching and mirroring
When you look into a mirror, you are reflecting back your own facial expressions and emotions. Getting into rapport with others is very similar to looking into a mirror, it’s simply reflecting back the emotions, body language and tone of voice to the person you are trying to get into rapport with. You are mirroring how they are feeling at the time. It’s the ability to empathize with their emotional state by demonstrating that you are on their side. It’s also mirroring how they speak and their body language.
Before long the prospect feels as if you are on their side because you seem very familiar. And you are, because you are matching them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and at ease with you. By matching a prospect’s communication pattern on various levels, you create a sense of profound connection with them. It means you are getting into the same rhythm as them. You are in sync and it’s a conscious decision on your part to build rapport.
A word of caution. When you start to match and mirror a prospects voice, tone and body language, you need to make sure this is subtle without being obvious. It is not about mimicking their every movement. If your prospect becomes conscious of what you are doing, they will feel like you are mocking them. The prospect must be completely unaware of what you are doing otherwise you will immediately break rapport.
Matching their voice
Start to match the tone and speed of their voice. If they are talking in low tones, you start to talk in low tones. If they are talking fast and in an excited manner you start to talk in a fast and excited manner. If they are speaking softly, you would speak softly. What this means is that you start to match the tone, tempo, volume and inflection in a person’s voice.
A word of caution, never ever mimic a prospect’s accent as they are likely to find this highly offensive.
Matching their body language
Start to match their body language. You begin to subtly match their head movements and gestures such as crossing your arms or legs when they cross their arms and legs. If they are sitting forward, you subtly start to sit forward. If they are sitting back, you subtly start to sit back. If they rest their hand on their knee or chin – you subtly start to do the same thing.
Matching their breathing
One of the quickest ways to get into rapport is to match their breathing. By breathing at the same rate as them, this is a powerful way of making that connection. Again this has to be subtle. The more it remains out of their awareness, the quicker you will be able to get into rapport with them.
Matching their style
Pay attention to your prospect’s natural communication style. Notice if they prefer to talk in lots of detail known as chunking down. Perhaps they talk about the big picture which is known as chunking up. Nothing will put a big picture thinker off more quickly than someone who goes into too much detail. It bores them to death. Conversely you will equally lose a prospect who likes lots of detail if you chunk up to the bigger picture.
Notice too if they seem like they are a people person or they are more task oriented. Task oriented people like lots of facts and figures and are more likely to respond to someone who is direct whereas a prospect who is people oriented is more likely to want to make connections on an emotional level.
Pacing and Leading
Once you become practiced at matching and mirroring, you can then start to lead the other person into matching your own tone of voice and body language. This is called pacing and leading. You can gently draw them in where they gradually start to match and mirror your body language and posture subconsciously.
Learning how to get into rapport with a prospect by matching and mirroring them is like learning to drive a car. You have to practice these skills until it becomes second nature.
Step 2 – Be an active listener
Being in rapport also means being a good listener. Research suggests that we only remember twenty-five to fifty percent of what we hear. Active listening demonstrates to the other person that you are paying close attention what they are saying and listening with purpose. This means you either listen to learn something, gather information, to gain understanding or for pure enjoyment. A prospect will sense if you are listening with purpose. It makes it easier for you to get into rapport with them.
Active listening techniques
- Look at the other person directly
- Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation
- Periodically nod your head to show you are listening
- Use open gestures at appropriate times throughout the conversation
- Use positive body language
- Don’t be distracted from what is going on around you
- Make a conscious effort to not only hear the words, but understand the message
- Don’t mentally prepare a response or a rebuttal while the other person is speaking
- Encourage the speaker to continue with comments like, uh huh…… please continue…… tell me more……
Step 3 – Paraphrasing and reflecting back
An important step of staying in rapport with someone is the art of paraphrasing and reflecting back what the person has said. This demonstrates to the speaker that you have heard what they had to say and now you are checking for understanding.
- “It sounds as if you were feeling….”
- “What I’m hearing is that you ….”
- “What you are telling me is…. is that correct?”
- “Let me see if I have this right, you…..”
By reflecting back and paraphrasing what the speaker is saying, lets them know that you not only listened to them, you have heard what they had to say.
Step 4 – Practice your communication skills
If matching mirroring, reflecting back and paraphrasing is new to you, don’t try this out on a real live prospect. Practice with your friends and family first. Here’s a little exercise for you.
Have a friend or family member tell you about something that got them very excited. Practice matching the tone of their voice, inflection and speed. Also match their body language by exaggerating their actions. This will feel awkward, however it will accelerate your learning.
Practice again with someone else this time have them tell you something that made them very very angry and feel the difference in how you match and mirror them.
As you gain more confidence, you can then match and mirror people you meet when out and about so that by the time you get in front of a prospect, you will be able to build rapport without even thinking about it.
On a final note
Once you master the art of getting into rapport, you will significantly increase your ability to make meaningful connections to generate leads and referral business.
In a Nutshell
- Smile with your eyes as well as your mouth
- Maintain eye contact throughout
- Match the tone and inflection in their voice
- Match the pace at which they speak
- Match and mirror their body language
- Once in rapport – look to begin leading and pacing
- Be a good listener – engage in active listening techniques
- Paraphrase and reflect back throughout a conversation
- Practice practice practice until it becomes second nature