How to build rapport

Rapport is defined as a harmonious relationship in which the people concerned are able to communicate effectively, and with a good understanding of each other’s views.

It comes as no surprise then, that building rapport is a vital part of any lead generation or sales role. Without it, can you really expect a prospect to be interested in your new product, or want to find out more about your services?

The difficulty in building rapport can change depending on the situation. Having the knowledge of how to establish that positive, harmonious relationship is important as the same tactics can be applied across any number of situations and contexts. Listed below are some of the best and most effective ways to inspire trust and understanding solely through your communication – thus creating rapport, and, hopefully, a positive outcome.

Try to adjust and match behaviours

Matching the gestures, behaviours and character traits of the other party during a conversation is a great, simple way to foster a positive working relationship.

Be careful though – matching and mirroring behaviours is often confused with just copying the actions of another person in a conversation. Whilst you do want to generally match their posture, you don’t want to immediately change your body position every time they do. If they don’t consciously notice, they may well do at a subconscious level, which will harm your chances of establishing any rapport.

It’s not just about posture either, you want to pick up on all the aspects of their communication style. Are they loud or quiet? Do they use hand gestures? Are they confident? What is their tone of voice? Are they quite formal or laid back? Try to answer these questions as you go, and adjust your behaviour accordingly.

Be concrete and clear

Language is the most important tool we have to build trust and understanding.

In business meetings, try to avoid using sales jargon or corporate buzzwords – phrases which have lost all authenticity and meaning. Instead, just try to use normal, clear, and relatable language. Having a conversation like you would with an old friend will build rapport much quicker than talking about synergy, holistic strategy, or streamlining.

Similarly, consider what message you’re sending with your body language. Crossing your arms, looking at the floor, fidgeting or tapping, all convey disinterest. On the other hand, looking a person in the eyes, relaxing your shoulders, taking notes, all show that you are engaging positively with the conversation.

Listen actively

I’m a huge advocate of active listening – it’s one of the core concepts I teach in our communication workshops. Active listening means that you take in everything the other person says, remember it, and provide direct, relevant feedback. It’s advantage is clear; active listening is effective communication, a key part of establishing rapport.

There’s a lot more to active listening than you would imagine. To start with, try to think about and process every sentence you hear, and provide affirmative feedback to encourage the speaker and show that you are listening.

It’s not an easy task – we tend to switch off, or become distracted, quite easily. However, making the effort to concentrate for the entire conversation will not just help build rapport, but you might just pick up on a tiny detail that helps you close the deal or understand exactly what the other person wants.

Final thoughts

Rapport is undoubtedly one of most important factors in building lasting business relationships. There’s no great secret to it, but even so it can be difficult to quickly strike up a good relationship with a new contact. Nonetheless, with the strategies outlined above (reading and accommodating their behaviours, using clear language to communicate, and actively engaging in the conversation), you will have a great base to work from.

And perhaps most importantly, it should be noted that all of these points centre around one thing in particular: being an authentic, nice person, for which there is no substitute or greater way to establish a positive relationship.