Build, sustain rapport as an essential business currency



    In your presentation you said if you can’t build rapport, don’t start. I deal with attorneys. What is your recommendation if a prospect just won’t build rapport? Kevin


    If an attorney prospect “just won’t build rapport,” it’s because you haven’t asked them the right rapport-building questions. Ask about the toughest case they’ve ever had, or the reason they chose to get into law, or the most rewarding part about their career. Ask something significant about them. I’ve never met anyone that won’t spend a minute or two talking about themselves.

    Many salespeople make fatal mistakes trying to establish rapport around “things” — the weather, the ball game, the economy, or the news. That’s not rapport; that’s idle chatter. Real rapport has an emotional base to it. And it comes from the prospect’s personal experience, personal opinion and personal wisdom.

    The key to earning rapport is keeping it light and keeping it positive. There’s a secret of rapport, and the secret is “the link” — finding things in common that you both know about and like. The easiest examples are having children who are the same age, or having attended the same college. These are things you can talk about with a smile, and then move on to business.

    Professional people tend to be self-indulgent people. When you walk into their offices, their statues, trophies and educational achievements are always in plain view, as are pictures of their family. Whenever I go into an office, I take a moment to walk around, not just look around. I look at educational achievements, awards and family photos. Sometimes the first question I ask is, “How old are your children?” because often the photograph will be several years old. Whatever it is that I’m looking at, I try to ask a question that will elicit personal information, personal history, or some type of positive emotional response.

    That was Kevin’s issue. How’s your rapport-building going? Do you understand that rapport is the gateway to an agreement? Do you understand that rapport is not small-talk or chitchat? Do you understand that rapport is the insight you gain about the person you’re trying to build a relationship with, and that it gives them a little insight about you in return? Do you understand that rapport is not qualifying the customer, it’s engaging them personally and intellectually? Do you understand that rapport is a time when the customer is qualifying you?

    Here is some additional insight into the rapport-building process:

    Rapport is delicate and must be professionally understood before you can be personally engaging.

    Rapport is exchanging information of personal value.

    Rapport is gaining insight into the person and their personality.

    Rapport is gaining an understanding of the other person.

    Rapport is the ability to begin the engagement process.

    Rapport is a learning time about them, not a bragging time about you.

    Rapport is asking — then creating dialog around the answer.

    Rapport is permission to smile, even laugh, without doing so at someone’s expense.

    Rapport is your opportunity to establish yourself as someone they would like to get to know better, and maybe even do business with.

    Is there a secret formula for building rapport? No — but the key actions from you are friendly and approachable. The key to success is “ask.”

    And during the brief time you ask questions and exchange dialog, you may find the link — something you both like and know about. The moment the link is realized, rapport deepens.

    Maybe it’s a sports team or a college or a child. Maybe it’s a vacation spot or a piece of art. Whatever it is, it’s personal and business gold: story exchange, smiles, mutual good feelings, and emotional thoughts and memories.

    Once you have built some personal rapport, it’s time to segue to business rapport. Start with a career question — maybe something about length of service, the best accomplishment, goals for future success — and then say something about your business career.

    When I finally segue to the business at hand, I get right to the point. I tell my prospective customer, “The reason I asked for this meeting was to find out …” 

    Note well: I do not say, “The reason I asked for this meeting was to tell you about …” Subtle, but powerful. Telling is selling. I want my prospective customer to buy. So do you.

    Some people tell me that trying to build rapport is awkward. Awkward is not a problem; it’s a symptom. The problem is a total lack of preparation on the part of the salesperson — that would be you.

    Maybe if you spent less time boning up on the economy and did some personal research on your prospective customer, your economy would be better.

    Free GitBit: For a few more rapport insights, go to and enter RAPPORT in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail to

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