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How Do You Build Rapport with Customers?

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Everybody's brain has two different processing centers: emotional and rational. The emotional brain is old. It developed millions of years ago, first with raw instincts—like fight or flight—that all animals have, and then into more complex emotions for us humans like anger, aggression, desire, fear, hatred, passion, love, disgust, sympathy, and so on.

Then there's the rational side, which developed more like tens of thousands of years ago. This part of the brain is more deliberate, analyzing and studying, and thinking about the future consequences of various possible actions.

What psychologists know about decision making is that when the rational and emotional side work together, it's a powerful motivator for action. When the emotional and rational sides are at odds, however, the emotional side typically wins.

The consequences for selling are profound, and it all starts with building rapport. The fundamental question of whether someone likes you or doesn't drives a significant portion of how your selling process and the customer's decision process will go.

Lead confident sales conversations with 50 Powerful Sales Questions. >>

Building rapport leads to some very important outcomes:

  • People talk to people they like
  • People share information with people they like
  • People buy from people they like
  • People feel loyalty to people they like
  • People introduce people they like

In 2013, the General Social Survey asked, "What percent of people are trustworthy?"

The average response? 30%.

But when asked, "What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?"

The average response was 70%.

Simply knowing leads to trust. We all know intuitively how important trust is when selling. Basic familiarity makes a difference in building trust. Knowing and liking…well, that's much more powerful, setting the stage for all selling success that comes after.

If you want to build rapport with customers, you need to succeed with the 4 Principles of Rapport: empathy, authenticity, similarity, and shared experience. Watch the video and continue reading below to learn more.

Rapport is the R in RAIN Selling. To learn more, download our ebook, RAIN Selling: Keys to Leading Masterful Sales Conversations.

4 Ways to Build Rapport with Customers

RAIN Group's 4 Principles of Rapport create a solid foundation for strong customer relationships.

1. Cultivate empathy by getting customers to talk about themselves and proving that you're listening.

Question: What gives your brain as much pleasure as food and money?

Answer: Talking about yourself.

Harvard neuroscientists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell have conducted a series of behavioral experiments pointing to the fact that talking about yourself feels so rewarding, right down to brain cells and synapse, that people can't help sharing details about themselves.

If you can get people talking about themselves, you've made some progress. If you can show them that you're actually listening to them, they'll be strongly inclined to like you.

What you develop is Rapport Principle #1: Empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If you want to understand another person, a) get them talking about themselves, and b) demonstrate that you're listening.

Download 50 Powerful Sales Questions for rapport-building questions you can ask.

Rapport is the foundation for building relationships. Sellers, professionals, and leaders who have great relationships tend to have great success. As you're building rapport with customers, think of it less as a mechanical part of how you should lead a meeting, and more as an investment in building a relationship.

To build rapport with customers, attend to these 4 principles:

  1. Empathy: Be curious. Listen. Care.
  2. Authenticity: Be real.
  3. Similarity: Find common ground.
  4. Shared Experience: Interact
RECOMMENDED READING >> 5 Things You Must Do in Every First Sales Conversation
Last Updated December 21, 2023

Topics: Sales Conversations