The Secret to Building Real Rapport


Simon Bailey explains why building real rapport involves a blend of like and respect.

The best quote ever about sales is this – People buy people before they buy products.

But it can be misinterpreted. Some sellers seem to think that the key to making a sale is to get the customer to like them. And that the key to getting the customer to like them is to build rapport.

So I always ask how they go about building that rapport, and I always get the same answers:

  • Being polite and friendly
  • Having a chat, sharing a joke
  • ‘Moaning’ about the weather
  • Asking about the kids – and the dog they can hear barking in the background

Their faces drop when I tell them that this has nothing to do with rapport

What they have described is passing the time of day.

I accept that passing the time of day is important and that it will help customers to like you. But it is a quick exchange that happens at the start of the call and which may bob in again from time to time as the conversation unfolds.

You have to balance up the like by blending in the ingredients of respect

If you want to move towards making a sale, you have to balance up the like by blending in the ingredients of respect.

Here are 3 simple ways to add respect into your sales pitch:

1. Get in the zone

That means creating an imaginary bubble around you so that nothing or no one else matters other than you and the customer.

It makes me shudder when I walk round contact centres and see agents distracted by what’s going on outside in the car park or a pretty girl walking across the sales floor.

All it tells me about them is that they don’t respect their customer or their customer’s story. How can a customer respect someone who is just going through the motions?

2. Write things down

If a seller is able to get themselves in the imaginary bubble I’ve described, they will hear things they’ve missed before, vital little titbits. They will also pick up on any anxiety in the customer, any confusion or concerns.

But it isn’t enough to hear these things, you have to write them down. Then you can refer back to them, make links, spot patterns, hook everything up.

A seller who tells me that they don’t need to write anything down – someone who taps their head and says “Don’t worry, it’s all up here, mate” – is either arrogant or bone idle. Either way, they’ll never be a successful seller.

Customers will respect an agent who takes time to understand their story and who can repeat it back wrapped around a relevant product or service.

3. Know your stuff and bring that knowledge to life

If you’ve watched Dragons’ Den, you’ll be familiar with this scenario: a guy strides in to the Den, a clever guy, possibly a genius, delivers his pitch for three minutes, sweating profusely, then looks nervously at Peter Jones, who says… “Thanks for that. I really like you as a person, I think you’re great. But I don’t understand what your business is all about…”

There then follows a few tense questions and the dismissal of the entrepreneur with no investment and a flea in his ear.

The point is this: what’s the point of our ‘genius’ knowing loads of stuff himself if he can’t bring it to life for a prospective investor?

Similarly, what’s the point of you knowing the technicalities of your products but you can’t bring them life for the customer, can’t create this ‘wrapper’ to embrace all the customer’s wants, needs and concerns that you listened to – and wrote down – earlier?

If you want respect, you will have to be able to bring things to life because, believe me, the chat about the weather will be a distant memory by now.

It always bemuses me that conventional sales training programmes always include an element of product knowledge in terms of understanding, but they rarely challenge the delegates to be able to articulate it – bring it to life.

Rapport comes from building dialogue, trust and clarity around the customer

I began this article by talking about passing the time of day – chatting about the weather, the kids and the dog. You may be wondering what’s happened to my definition of rapport.

Simon Bailey

Simon Bailey

Well, rapport comes from respect: building dialogue, trust and clarity around the customer’s situation, and that comes from:

  • Getting in the zone
  • Writing things down
  • Bringing your knowledge to life

As a kid, I’ll bet you have – on more than one occasion – stood in the middle of a see-saw and tried to keep it balanced. It’s tricky – just as it is on the phone.

Read our Best Tips, Phrases and Words to Use for Building Rapport

With thanks to Simon Bailey at Zone 4 Training and Development Limited

Published On: 2nd Jul 2014 - Last modified: 2nd Nov 2017
Read more about - Call Centre Management , , ,


3 Comments
  1. Thank you for sharing this info. very educating.

    amy 4 Jul at 5:10 pm
  2. Great! It will help!

    Iiko Chan 6 Jul at 5:47 pm
  3. Great information! I like the first one – love being in the zone!

    Josh 19 Feb at 3:19 pm
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