How to build rapport with anyone, fast

When worked in finance, I thought it was all about the numbers.

Show people the numbers, take them through the logic, and surely I’ll be able to influence them.

The thing is, sometimes the numbers worked for me.

But other times they didn’t.

It wasn’t until I moved into sales that I learned why.

One of the first lessons I learned in sales was that unless you have a good enough relationship with someone, its almost impossible to influence them to do anything. No matter how good the numbers and the logic.

The second lesson I learned was that resistance is a sign of a lack of relationship.

And in the selling and influence game when we talk about relationships, what we more specifically mean is rapport.

What is rapport?

Rapport is that comfortable feeling you get with people you know and trust.

You know, that feeling you get when you’re with your best friend.

Rapport is the basis of influence because if you feel comfortable with someone you are going to be open, to them as a person and what they are saying or doing.

And if you don’t feel comfortable (i.e. not in rapport), you’re going to be closed. And probably resistant to them and what they are saying or doing.

When it comes to influence, rapport is like a hot knife through butter.

Why is it important for me to build rapport?

If you work in sales, you want to build rapport with your potential customer before you start selling to them. Otherwise they will likely resist your attempts, even if what you are selling is exactly what they need and want.

If you are a leader or manager, you want to build rapport with your team before you start communicating messages to them. Otherwise they will likely resist your messages, even if the messages you a communicating is exactly what they want to hear.

If you are a business partner, you want to build rapport with the people you want to influence so they are open to your ideas. Otherwise they will likely resist your ideas, even if your ideas are the best ideas in the World.

You see the thing is, the problem is often not the product you are selling, or the message you are delivering, or the idea you are presenting.

The problem is most often the lack of rapport between you and your audience.

They don’t trust you enough, they feel like they don’t know you, and they don’t feel comfortable with you. And so they resist your products, messages, or ideas.

Actually, they are resisting you.

The good news is that it’s really easy to fix.

Because you can build rapport with anyone fast.

How do I build rapport fast?

The 3 best ways to build rapport are:

  1. be genuinely interested in the other person, and let them do most of the talking
  2. find some common ground and common interests that you can talk about and bond over
  3. help the other person first, before you ask for help

Ok that sounds great, but what’s the fast track.

Here’s how to build rapport fast with anyone in just a few steps.

Step 1: Smile

Look at people who trust each other and are comfortable with each other. They’ll probably be smiling and laughing.

If you smile at someone, what can they not help but do?

Smile back!

Give it a try.

So if you smile at someone, they’ll smile back and now you’ve got 2 people smiling at each other and the start of rapport.

So when you meet someone, open your body, shake their hand warmly, look in their eyes and give a genuine warm smile as you say hi, how are you…’

Step 2: Meet them in their World, not yours

We all feel more comfortable with people and things that we are familiar with.

There are a few small things you can do to come across as more familiar to people.

Think about what you wear

If the people you want to influence are wearing jeans and t-shirts, you will have to work extra hard to build rapport with them if you are wearing a pin-strip suit and tie.

Equally if your audience are suited and booted, you probably don’t want to be in your track suit.

Dressing in line with those around you is one of the best and easiest way to start building rapport.

My Dad always said to me dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got.

These days I like to be just a little bit smarter than the people I want to influence.

If you don’t believe the power of how you dress when it comes to rapport, just have a look at how football fans can become immediate best friends just because they are both wearing their team’s shirt. And look what happens when they come across someone who is wearing another team’s shirt.

Think about how to come across

It’s important to be yourself.

Being fake kills rapport.

Just think about the other person.

If they are quite quiet and reserved, bouncing over to them and talking at one hundred miles an hour probably won’t build rapport fast.

So slow yourself down a bit, get closer to their World, and bring them into your bouncing World slowly.

Equally if you are quiet and reserved you may find it hard to build rapport with someone who is bouncing all over the place.

So find just enough energy in your voice and body to get closer to their World.

Think about it as turning your natural self up or down a bit to get closer to the other person.

They’ll probably warm to you faster because you feel more familiar to them, and they probably feel more comfortable with you.

Just be sure not to stray too far from your genuine natural self because otherwise you’ll be faking it and people see straight through that.

Step 3: Find common ground on a personal level

People love talking about themselves.

Get someone talking about themselves and what is important to them, and they’ll warm to you instantly.

People love talking about 3 things: their family, their hobbies/passions and their holidays.

So how do you get them talking about that?

Simple, just ask some questions.

My favourite question to ask is “what did you get up to at the weekend?” or “what are you up to at the weekend”.

This is great because if they have children you’ll find out. And people LOVE talking about their kids. Trust me, I’ve got 4 children. Get me started and I’ll chew your ear off about them. And love you for taking an interest!

If they love cycling they’ll probably tell you about an epic ride in lycra. You can just keep the conversation on the ride element.

If they don’t have kids they’ve probably been away somewhere exciting for the weekend.

Either way you’ll get them talking about themselves. Ideally get them talking for at least 5 minutes. Don’t interrupt, just probe a bit further saying things like, ‘oh wow, tell me more’.

And whatever you do don’t start talking about yourself and what you did at the weekend…yet!

Between family, holidays, sports and hobbies you’ll find something you have in common. When you find it, build a conversation around it and ask you talk rapport will build.

Step 4: Find common ground on a business level

Now you’ve build some personal common ground, it’s time to build some business common ground.

If you want to influence without authority you’re going to have to align what you want with what the other person wants.

The best place to start is to find out what’s important to the other person.

My favourite way to do this is to ask this question:

What’s your biggest problem or challenge at the moment?

And follow it up with:

How can I help?

You’ll find your rapport with the other person goes to a whole new level.

So what next?

Rapport really can help you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

From getting better service at a restaurant, landing your next job or promotion, or selling a new budget process to your colleagues.

To build rapport fast with anyone follow these simple steps:

1.Smile

2.Meet them in their World

3.Find personal common ground – ask them what they did at the weekend

4.Find business common ground – ask them what their biggest challenge is

5.Ask how you can help

Final thoughts:

Before you even think about trying to sell, influence or persuade, first of all build rapport.

And if you get resistance when you are trying to sell, influence or persuade it’s probably because you haven’t built enough rapport.

About Andy Shambrook

Hi I'm Andy. I used to be a finance director, then I became a sales director, and I'll show you everything I learned in sales that I wish I'd know when I worked in finance.

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