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Building Rapport – It’s More Important Than You May Think

By March 9, 2021May 1st, 2023No Comments

While we have a course and webinar to help people sell better virtually, I wanted to share some tips on the number one sales skill salespeople have stated in our surveys they are finding the most challenging when selling virtually… building rapport.

Building Rapport – the ability to relate to others in a way that creates trust and understanding. 

Most of us are used to building rapport with prospects or clients by chatting over coffee or over lunch with one or two people at a time. By meeting in their office, you can learn what is important to them based upon their photos, awards displayed, and other observations that enable you to have casual conversations to build connection points. These environments foster both your transparency and theirs, thus enabling connections to take shape that leads to true rapport.

Is building rapport different when you are virtual versus face-to-face? Yes!

How can you simulate that environment virtually?

As a starting point, have one-on-one conversations using your web camera so they can see you just as they would if you were face-to-face. Always have your web camera on!

Keep the atmosphere casual, less formal than a sales presentation would be. Seeing you in your real surroundings, whether it is your office or your home, helps create a similar degree of transparency. Let your background show what you may have in common. Is it the love of a pet, a landscape, or a family photo behind you? Maybe a favorite book? Use LinkedIn to first uncover what areas of commonality you may have – prior industry backgrounds, city of residence, or even similar interests in posts. Building rapport is most often started by finding a connection or common interest outside of the sales cycle, even outside of business.

Don’t let job titles scare or worry you. Most of us have more in common than we realize, whether it be concerns about our parents, kids, or loved ones… or the desire to excel in our hobbies or passions. Maybe it’s the desire to help others. You just need to uncover what that could be through your conversation.

When selling virtually, too often you can feel like you are intruding on someone’s busy day since people have so many meetings. Yet how many of those meetings include casual conversations that are not all about business? Not too many! Create a list of four or five questions you would be comfortable answering in your conversation, and if they answered it, it would help you learn more about your sales contact. You can then mix it up between a question and a personal story. People are more likely to share if you share first, providing it is appropriate. But do not overshare!

If you have time scheduled to talk, most people will take a few moments to get to know you if it is a new relationship. This is not true in a cold call, which is a very different situation. Even existing or prior relationships may need a rapport boost if you have not connected lately. Make time to get caught up on life. People want to feel cared about. Staying in touch, on occasion, often brings more positivity than you might think, as they know how hectic life can be and that reaching out to them took effort. People today need optimism, heartwarming stories, and laughter. So, identifying a few appropriate stories to share that will create these feelings will be invaluable to your rapport building.

Having a “driver” type personality, I too often want to get into the business topic at hand. But that does not build relationships! You may be similar. My tip for fellow drivers is to focus on your interest in others, not the business first. I have come to realize the more I know about the other person, the more I can brainstorm ways to help them. That reminder helps me to slow down and purposefully get to know them and understand their current situation better. That is the foundation of rapport building.

What about building rapport in a more formal sales presentation setting? Can it be done? Yes, but it is more challenging. Being comfortable with someone is the number one priority to build rapport. So, smile often, possibly more than you feel is natural. A happy, optimistic person who is confident is appealing to others.

To build rapport in a large sales presentation, it is important to create these feelings within the prospect or client:

  • They Feel Seen and Heard – Do introductions. Ask for information to use as a connection point later. What is important to them for the meeting? If a global group – where do they reside?
  • They Feel Important – Use their first names since you have now been introduced. It has a positive and personal psychological impact. Reference topics they said were important, so they know you remembered who mentioned it. They were important enough for you to note it!
  • They Feel Respected – Be on time. Validate the objectives of the meeting and confirm the end time. Be sure to ask questions of opinion or perspective of each person, or at least more broadly than just the leader. Leaders want to ensure you can work with their team, not just themselves.
  • They Feel Comfortable With You – Are you relaxed, confident, considerate of others, and not too structured or rigid? Then you are someone they would want to work with. Letting your personality shine will create a huge difference. Your camaraderie with your own team on the call will also demonstrate how you work with others. Make it fun and easy going.

Businesses will have people working from home much more. The world is forever changed. So, becoming comfortable building rapport virtually will be vital to your sales success.


Personal Challenge:
Brainstorm three questions you would answer if someone were trying to get to know you in a business situation. Craft your answers so you could lead with one as a story to model your transparency and encourage the other party to share.



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