A Simple Skill to Use to Quickly Build Rapport

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I cut my teeth in sales, and read all the books and tried various approaches. Among them:

The Puppy Dog Close: “Here, take the puppy home for the weekend, and if you want to return it on Monday, just let me know.” I.e. they won’t return it because you sucked them into letting their kids meet the adorable puppy. Huge mistake on their part.

The Thermometer Close: ‘How do you feel about this product/service out of 10?” If it’s 8 or above, go for the sale!”

The Impending Event Close: “I’ve got to clear out all this inventory by next Tuesday, so now’s the time to buy.”

I once came across a competitor’s sales manual entitled, “The Kill Zone” complete with a graphic of a customer in the crosshairs of a gun scope for the title page. Not kidding, it exists. The idea was to manipulate the customer to sit at a ‘closing station’ where the big guns came out and put on the heavy pressure. Wouldn’t work with me, but must have been effective with someone because they made a manual out of it.

There are many more techniques out there, most of which I never found terribly useful. But there is one that I would recommend to use in rapport building with anyone you meet. That skill is:


You simply mirror the behaviour of the other person to make them feel comfortable with you.

Body language: If they’re sitting up straight, don’t slouch. If their arms are crossed, cross your arms. Match their body language.

Tone of voice: If they’re quiet, don’t blast them like a carnival barker. Pitch your voice to match theirs. If they’re louder, be louder. People like to deal with people who are like themselves.

Personality style: If you’re dealing with a detail person, focus on the detail! If it’s a dominant get-it-done type, get to the bottom line quickly. If they talk about family, do the same. Mirror the communication style they prefer.

Subtletly is key to making this work. If you’re too brazen in your approach, it’s off putting. But, if you care enough to communicate with someone else, try matching their preferred style instead of assuming they want to communicate just like you do.

When you act in ways that feel appropriate to the other person, your credibility increases. When you insist on focusing on yourself and your preferred communication style, your credibility often decreases.

Try mirroring with a prospect, client, or co-worker, and see how it helps move things forward.

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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