April 1, 2019

How to build rapport in sales to a cynical prospect

How to build rapport in sales

I believe that figuring out how to build rapport in sales is a vital skill to close more deals more consistently.

I would go as far as to say that the start in any sale is the most important part.

Top sales professionals understand fundamentally that it is their job to make a prospect/client feel safe. Prospects need to feel comfortable and safe enough to hand over their business to you.

Your job is to get the prospect to like and trust you, your product and your organisation.

Since you’re the tip of the spear, you’re the one that has to know how to build rapport in sales because if you start well the chances are that you’ll finish well (with an order).

Below are four thoughts on how you can effectively connect with your prospect/customer, who can be a cynical bunch. These thoughts are not about the words or actions you need to take but rather the nuanced inner world that affects your state and that of your prospects/customers.

If you don’t go within, you’ll go without.

Neale Donald Walsch – author

Know Your Stuff

It goes without saying that you need to know your stuff. You need to know as much about your product, organisation, your solutions, your competitors and the environment you’re playing in.

This is helpful in two ways. First, it gives your prospects confidence that you are an expert and can solve their problem. It makes your prospect feel safe. Second, knowing our stuff gives you confidence and makes you appear more competent and sure-footed.


There’s not much sexier than someone who is confident. Confidence inspires confidence. Confident people make us feel safe. An unsure and unsettled sales person leads to an unsure and unsettled prospect.

how to build rapport in sales
Trust and Liking


Having real belief in yourself, your product/service and your organisation is another confidence booster. It’s much harder to sell something that you don’t believe in. When you think that you’re short-changing your customer it does something to your psyche and your physiology. You’re not as confident (I’m assuming you’re not a total narcissistic, sociopath that’ll do anything to secure a deal). You probably would never know it but the prospect/customer will pick up the subtle cues that you’re not fully vested in your product or service. They pick up that you’re shifty, that you’re unsure and that you’re unsafe.

They can’t put their finger on it, but their gut will have that hollow, impending doom feeling and this will make them hesitant to do business with you.

Believe in you, your product/service and your organisation

The trick is to believe that your product or service really is helping fulfil the needs of your customer and that your customer will be better off for having met you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of reframing how you look at things.

Let’s take an example of a life insurance sales professional. I’ve been involved in the industry and the narrative is largely about the self-interest of the sales professional and the organisation and not the interest of the customer. It’s not just about how many apps (applications) you’ve processed and how much commission you’ve made. Because if you really interrogate commission, you’ll know that no matter how much you earn, it’s never enough so you’ll always be disappointed and disillusioned.

But if you reframe and look at how you’re benefiting the customer, it may help you become more committed to your sales. And the more belief you have and the more committed you are the more you could sell, couldn’t you?

If you think about it what difference does a life policy make in a customer’s life? A hell of a lot of difference is what I say. Should the breadwinner die, then the family can still be cared for … bond paid, school fees paid and food paid. This gives the family dignity. Imagine the opposite … no life insurance. It will fundamentally affect the lifestyle of the family negatively.

So, selling life insurance is a noble pursuit because it helps families keep their lifestyle and their dignity.

If you reframe that you’re in the dignity business and not in the life insurance business, how would that change your outlook to the work you do?

No matter your product or service, look at it with new eyes and see what a real difference it makes to humanity. If that doesn’t inspire you to sell, then I don’t know?

Self Interest

When figuring out how to build rapport in sales, think about your view on self interest. In my opinion, it’s the death knell for many a sale. Your full focus should be on serving the prospect/client and not on how much commission you’ll earn.

There are times when you need to walk away from a deal because it’s not a good fit for the prospect. Your job is to set your prospect/customer up for success.

sales training for smart sales people
Self-interest is not a smart strategy in sales

Like confidence, prospects/customers can smell when you’re not in integrity and are out to get as much as you can out of them. To be crass, ‘shaft them’. We all have a bullshit detector and we all know at some level when we’re being shafted.

A prospect/customer is more willing to do business with you if he/she feels that you have his/her interest at heart.

Figuring out how to build rapport in sales is important for sales success. If you can get your prospect to like and trust you quickly (because you genuinely have his/her interest at heart), then you’ll have a better chance of making the sale so that both you and your prospect win.

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