There is so much nonsense written about body language that it’s not surprising that many sales guys have given up trying to get to grips with it and gone ‘au naturel’ – just relying on their own common sense and natural ability to engage with clients.
It’s a well know fact that having a good understanding of how to build rapport is a vital sales skill but is one that few are taught or understand. Interpreting the clues people give in the language they use and physiology they adopt can take your sales success to a higher level.
Rapport skills enable you to quickly put others at ease and create trust. Mastery of rapport skills allows you to get on with anyone anywhere, greatly increases your confidence and effectiveness and makes it easier for others to communicate and do business with you.
Mastering the skill of building rapport requires sensory acuity and behavioral flexibility on your part. There are only two limits to your ability to produce results in this area; how ‘switched on’ or aware you are to other people’s postures, gestures and speech patterns and the elegance and subtlety with which you can match them.
So, let’s investigate some of the pieces of the rapport jigsaw puzzle that you need to become aware of and understand to quickly and effectively create rapport.
One of the crucial skills in building rapport is the ability to notice and accurately read the non-verbal signals given from another person. Sensory acuity, your awareness of the five senses- seeing, hearing, feeling, smell and taste is vital. Being able to do this leads to flexibility in your own communication style. Below are some of the things that you can notice when you ‘tune’ in and become aware. Matching these subtly helps build rapport and your ability to pace and lead:
- Body language
- Weight distribution
- Gestures- arms and hand, legs and feet
- Facial expressions
- Eye contact
- Breathing rate
- Voice (volume,tone,pitch,tempo)
It is important that you do not mimic the other person. If they shift their weight from one side to the other subtly do the same when appropriate. If they sit back in their chair subtly do the same. If they tap the table with a pen, try tapping yours in your hand. If their tone of voice changes match it and see what the reaction is- be flexible!
We are bombarded with information at a staggering rate. It is thought that our unconscious minds process two million pieces of information ever second! So it makes sense that we have to filter out a lot of what is going on. In NLP we explore different ways, in which we can filter information, using our language, memories, values and beliefs and decisions.
We use these filters unconsciously as well as consciously. They enable us to control the amount of information we are dealing with and we do this in three ways: Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation.
The result of filtering information creates our unique Internal Representation (in NLP this is known as ‘Models of the World’), which in turn affect our emotional state and physiology. We can change our experience of the world, by changing our filters.
How we represent our ‘Model of the World’ or how we explain what is going on inside our heads is done using language. Because we experience what is going on around us through our five senses, when we want to explain to others, communicate, we use our senses to do this. In NLP, this is known a communicating with our ‘Representation Systems’. We all have a preferred system and if you pay close attention when people talk you will be able to notice their Representation System by the types of words and phrases they use.
Sense = NLP Description
Seeing = Visual (V)
Hearing = Auditory (A)
Feeling = Kinaesthetic (K)
Smelling = Olfactory (O)
Tasting = Gustatory (G)
People whose representation system is Visual will say things like: “I see what you mean” or “I can clearly see how this will work”. Those that are Auditory may say “I’m totally in tune with that” or “That rings a bell”. Kinaesthetics will use phrases such as “This feels right” Or “I feel it in my bones”.
As you become more aware of your own and other people’s preferences and develop your flexibility, you can join them in their preferred representation systems to fine-tune your communication and deepen understanding and rapport.
Leading changes the other person’s behaviour by getting them to follow your lead (e.g. leading them from being slumped in a chair and disinterested into a more upright posture and engaged, or leading them from speaking loudly and aggressively to speaking more softly and in control) This is one way to test that you do have rapport.
Having rapport and being able to lead others makes it easier to achieve mutually desired outcomes such as reaching agreement. It is, however, a choice. There may be some people with whom you would choose not to be in rapport with and in those cases, you have the choice of mismatching.
Mismatching allows you to break rapport, to interrupt or to avoid communicating. To mismatch, simply alter your body and/or voice to make them different from the other person’s. This will subtly and unconsciously interrupts the flow of communication giving you the opportunity to redirect the interaction.
General points about Rapport Skills
- Rapport is what we do naturally
- It allows you to join the other person in their ‘model of the world’
- Rapport needs flexibility of thought and behaviour
- Notice what happens when people get on well – they tend to match
- Notice the opposite, when people are in disagreement – they mismatch
- Notice when you are not getting on well with someone and try subtly matching
- Make it easy for others to communicate with you by practicing rapport
- Liking the other person is not a prerequisite for rapport
Experience the world as others do. Rapport makes them and their experiences and difficulties much more understandable. We get all sorts of information from body and voice that is just not there in the words!
What do you do to build rapport and trust?