Rapport building in sales: How to get prospects to like you and buy from you

January 10, 2017

Rapport building with prospects and clients is a very important part of being a successful salesperson. Some salespeople have a knack for building rapport quickly, while others find it challenging. Rapport building is the ability to create a friendly, positive, and trusting relationship, usually by finding a common ground. By finding a common ground (a shared interest), a person can create a friendly and trusting relationship.

Rapport has a lot to do with how much another person likes and trusts you. Initial business sales meetings with new people you do not know can be stressful. Finding the right words or topics to talk about during an initial meeting can be challenging, especially in sales. By remaining calm and relaxed, a salesperson can overcome this uncomfortable and stressful first meeting.

Breaking the Ice

Here are a few suggestions to reduce the stress and tension at any first meeting:

  • Use topics that are common to everyone. The traffic, weather, and especially industry the client operates in. Make sure to perform research on the company and the person/people you will be meeting with before your initial meeting, so you can comment on where they went to school or something similar. LinkedIn is a great place to perform your initial research on the people you will be meeting with. Avoid talking about yourself. Instead, concentrate on your client and get them talking.
  • Listen to what the client is saying and attempt to find a shared experience. Having children, sporting events, etc. are common experiences. You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Laughing is always a good way to break the ice. Inject a humorous story or joke, but remember to keep it clean and not too long. Never joke about other people. If you want to joke about someone, joke about yourself. Humor can create harmony.
  • Watch your body language and non-verbal ques. By leaning toward your client as they talk, this tells them you are interested in what they are saying. Make eye contact most the time and try to smile. This builds trust.
  • Show that you see your client’s point. Empathy is imperative in these circumstances. Finding similarities is what builds rapport. Understanding where another person is coming from and trying to mentally walk in their shoes is empathy.


A client who trusts you and likes you will give you business and a client that does not like you or trust you won't. This is just a fact. But, that trust is accomplished by doing a few things. A CBS News poll stated that people only think that 30% of people they don't know are trustworthy. However, when asked by that same poll how many people they know are trustworthy, that percentage grew to 70%. The difference here is the people they knew they trusted, and the people they did not  know they generally did not trust. Trust is something you earn--it is not something that is automatically given to you. By doing these simple things, you can build trust with a client.

  • Respect your client’s time as respecting their time is important to rapport building. Ask what is the best time for them. Return their telephones calls as soon as possible. Keep appointments, and if they give you a time limit, respect it. Reply to any emails quickly and professionally.
  • Do exactly what you say you are going to do. Understand what the client wants and tell them what you can do. Once these parameters are established, then do it. Keep the timeline. If there is an unforeseen problem, communicate that as soon as possible. By keeping your commitments, trust will automatically develop.
  • Relieve your client’s pain, or, at least, empathize with their pain.
  • Make your prospect look good in front of their peers by complimenting them on their ideas or work. This is a wonderful rapport building technique.
  • Never disagree with your prospect. If you do not agree with something he/she says, simply say, "I understand." But, never disagree with them or tell them they are wrong, or you will lose the sale every time.

Open Communications

Openly communicating with your clients is imperative to keeping them. Understand their goals, communicate factual abilities, check in, report throughout the process and be honest. People understand if you just communicate with them. Each client has different requirements when it comes to communications. Some like to be informed about everything. Sort of a micro-manager. Others only want highlights of a project or to only be informed when difficulties arise. The key is to stay in touch with your clients. One of the leading reasons why companies fire their vendors and hire new vendors is because of lack of communication--not price. People want to know you care about them and that you appreciate the business they give you. When you ignore them or take them for granted, they will find somebody to replace you. So make a happy to stay in touch with both your prospects and clients and it will go a long way toward you developer strong rapport and trust with them and long term business.

You should also never assume that your communications where delivered. Always follow-up. Check in with a client to see if they received your quote, your email, your report, etc. If they haven’t returned your phone call, attempt to find out why and then call them again. Never overstate your capabilities. Keeping open communications will help with rapport building and it will lead to more sales.


You should not always be trying to sell and close a deal when talking to a prospect or a client. In order to build trust and rapport with a prospect and with current clients, talk to them like a person -- like your friend -- and don't always be so focused on trying to close the deal. Everything previously discussed in this article must be kept in mind, but a relationship is built when two people understand each other’s needs and expectations and they talk to each other as trusting friends.

Call your client just to say hello. Ask about their children, spouse or families. If you know the client is having family problems, see if there is something you can do. But, ensure it is within you power. Ask your customer out to an early breakfast, lunch or late dinner when they have been working hard. Send them a card with a handwritten note. Be a friend who sincerely cares.

Make a point of letting them know you are not trying to sell them something. Show them you are generally concerned for their welfare. Friends like to do business with people they know and trust--their friends. Remember the CBS News poll. It does not take that much time out of your day to check in with a client. You can do it driving to see another client or during a break in your day.


There are a host of things a salesperson can do to improve rapport building. If it does not come naturally to you, then work on these skills. You have friends, so try to remember how those friendships were developed or were initiated. It is the same thing in sales. There is no magic bullet to make a prospect immediately like you, trust you, and want to buy from you. Remember, you are going to have better rapport with some clients than you do with others. Treat people with kindness and respect and strive to make a relationship before making a sale. A relationship can lead to a lifetime of sales, while just focusing on making a sale may lead to one quick sale, but nothing more. Focus on rapport building to build relationships and the sales will follow.


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