Build Rapport by Mirroring

Build Rapport by Mirroring

Marcus Cauchi

When you walk into a prospect’s office, what do you do to establish rapport? Traditionally, naïve salespeople look for something in the office that begs a question. For example, “Is that your golf trophy?”

How frequently do you think that prospect has been asked that question? How often do you think the prospect hears a salesperson ask about the family portrait on the desk, last night’s football match, etc.? Prospects anticipate these questions. Verbal skill is actually a very small part of the rapport quotient. Non-verbal communication goes a long way toward establishing rapport with your prospect.


This may seem to suggest the need to learn to read body language. But it’s not as simple as interpreting (guessing) what your prospect’s body language is saying. The fact is people feel comfortable with people who are like themselves! So, as a professional salesperson you can use a technique called mirroring to match your prospect’s body language so that your prospect relaxes and feels comfortable in your presence. This involves posture, breathing patterns, language, intonation, emphasis, phrases.

Many salespeople fail to sell because they fail to adapt to their prospect’s favoured means of communication. They’re on to a losing wicket the first moments of the sale.


Show and Tell (and Touch)

You use your senses to interpret your environment: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. For certain stimuli you use only one of these senses; for others, you use some combination of the senses. In the business world, three senses are dominant: sight, sound, and touch. We all use all three senses, we just favour one over the others.

Most of the time, your prospects rely on one sense more than the others to make decisions. Prospects are either ‘visual’ people, meaning they need to see a picture before they can make a decision; ‘auditory’ types need to hear something first; and ‘kinesthetics’, meaning they need to touch or feel to make a decision. Some combination of these senses is at work in all prospects, but one sense tends to dominate. For illustration think of each sense as a separate language. Visual is Vietnamese, auditory is Albanian and kinesthetic is Greek.

So what happens when your prospect is kinesthetic and you walk into the room and say: “Did you see the England game yesterday?” (This is equivalent to a Greek speaking to a Vietnamese – what chance of clear communication?) How does your kinesthetic prospect – who needs to touch – gain any sense of commonality out of what you said? You’d want to say: “Doesn’t it feel great when England win?” Your kinesthetic prospect knows what it feels like when England win or lose. Your job in the sale, is to adapt to his view/call/sense of the world. How can you tell which sense dominates the prospect’s decision-making engine? Listen for the clues. Every prospect will give them to you. Just listen to what the prospect says.

A visual prospect will say something like, “That seems a little unclear to me. Can you show me a picture,” or, “I’m having some trouble focusing on that idea. I’d like to see that in my mind’s eye.” Visuals need visual images to communicate. If you want to sell a visual prospect, you’ve got to speak visually. “What do you see yourself accomplishing?” is a good question to ask a visual.

An auditory prospect may say, “Tell me, what does that sound like?” “Can you comment on the importance of this,” or, “I’ve got to make it clear as a bell to announce it at the next level.” Auditory people use their ears to make sense of the world. Next time you go to a concert, look around for the people who have their eyes closed. They’re not sleeping; they’re listening. They don’t need to see the orchestra to enjoy the music.

A kinesthetic prospect may say, “It feels a little muddled to me. It’s got to be a tight fit with what we’re already doing,” or, “It’s a sensitive issue, and I’ve got be comfortable with it.” The kinesthetic prospect seeks trust. Learn to create the feeling of trust, and you can quickly establish rapport with a kinesthetic person.

By ‘reading’ your prospects’ cues and ‘living’ in their world, you can quickly establish rapport and begin to improve your sales proficiency. Your goal as a salesperson is to learn these bonding and rapport techniques and practise them repeatedly.
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