The World Needs More Rapport Building

Rapport building on the phone
Create a Caring Connection.

At least dealership representatives do.

Rapport building can be the most critical skill you can learn that can have an impact on your ability to create appointments that show.  Some people come by rapport building naturally, others struggle with it mightily.  Let’s talk about what rapport is and give you some ideas on how to incorporate it into your phone calls.

Simply put, rapport building is the art of connecting with other people.  Another way of saying that is “bringing oneself into unity with another”.  (Say that in your head with oscillating hippy chimes in the background).  To build rapport you must understand the other person’s point of view and find something that you both value.  When you have built rapport, you will be focused on and interested in the same things as the person with whom you are communicating.  

Rapport building starts with listening.  Listen to find the person’s point of view and to find something the person values that you can connect on. When the customer calls, listen to them.  Don’t get into a hurry to take over the conversation.  The first part of the call is to gather information that you will be able to use to build trust in yourself and the dealership.  Such information would include the customers name, vehicle wants and what other relevant pieces of information the customer brings up.  Let’s discuss those three things briefly.

You might be surprised how often salespeople forget the customers name and ask, “what was your name again”.  This may seem like a small thing, but the salesperson is actually saying, “I don’t really care what you’ve said nor do I care about you as a person, but it seems fitting that I call you something because I am about to tell you what I think is important”.  

Of course the salesperson is not saying that, but let’s talk about why that can be the perception. Dale Carnegie, in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (go read the book if you haven’t) said, “A person’s name to him or her is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  There is something magical that happens when we hear our names.  We feel respected and want to reciprocate that sentiment.  Conversely, if we do not hear our names or worse, someone calls us by another name, we lose interest in that person and what they may say to us.  If you consider what I just wrote, you will see great power in remembering and using a person’s name with respect.  Let me repeat that from the customer’s perspective.  When a customer hears their name, they feel respected and will feel a need to respect the person who uses their name.  Similarly, when a customer hears their name, they gain interest in what the person who uses their name has to say.

The thing you will want to listen for generally has to do with what the customer wants.  The question is, do you care enough to remember?  To build rapport you have to show, prove, and embed in the customers mind that you do care.  Don’t say things like, “what were you looking for again”.  Show them that you care enough to listen the first time and use the words they use, in the way they use them.  For example, as you are looking the vehicle up say something like, “Let me see if I can find that used 4 wheel drive, short bed truck you were looking at”.  Repeating what they said precisely gives the impression that you are interested in what the customer said and will be the best person suited to help them.

The last item to listen for that you will want to remember are any relevant pieces of information the customer brings up.  Notice I said, “relevant pieces of information the customer brings up”.  Remember, you do not want to insert information that may create obstacles, you are merely listening for what the customer may bring up.  The purpose of remembering this is so you don’t bring something up in the conversation that will make the customer feel you were not listening.  An example of this might be a customer saying they work evenings.  You will want to remember this for when you are setting the appointment.  You will offer times that are in the late mornings or early afternoon.  

The solution to ensure you are building rapport through listening is simple and even obvious:  write down what the customer says.  Focus in on the three things we discussed and be prepared to write down precisely what the customer says on a piece of paper.  Do not take a phone call in a place where you cannot write something down.  It is critical that you care enough about success that you will be prepared to achieve it.

The next approach to building rapport is to match the same speed, tone, and level of energy of the customer in their speech.  While you are listening to the customer and writing down their name, wants, and other information, pay attention to how fast the customer is speaking, what their tone is and what their level of energy is on the call.  Be careful to not sound like a robot as if you are mimicking the customer but try to match as close as you can how the customer is talking to you.  It’s kind of like observing a couple of old friends in conversation.  If you are paying close enough attention you will notice that they are speaking at the same speed, tone, and energy as each other.  When one gets excited, so does the other.  If one is sad, the other starts to exhibit the same emotion.  Rapport building can mean building friendships.  Following this approach allows you to build a friendship.

Another way to match the customer is to use similar language patterns.  As an example, some customers are highly educated.  If you are comfortable using terms that they do, do it, but be careful to not over do it as you will likely be exposed as an impostor.  If you are not comfortable with the customer’s level of vocabulary, be very polite, respectful and courteous to compensate.  

Whatever the level of language skills the customer has, try to match what you can without sounding like a robot or like you are trying to either mock the customer or demean the customer’s culture or ethnicity. Language has a way of binding people together by creating a sense of commonality.  

Another important approach to build rapport is to find a common interest or value.  Get people to talk about themselves.  A person’s self is what a person is most familiar with and able to talk about with authority.  That may be why people like talking about themselves.  As you allow people to talk about themselves, you will be able to look into their lives and find something you may have in common.  To create an emotional connection, as a customer opens up and shares something personal of importance to them, be empathetic and share something that is similar of yourself.  In some cases, you may need to begin the sharing connection to converse with someone who may be shy or cautious.  When you find that common thread between the two of you and share that thread the customer will feel more connected to you and you to them.  Be aware that this approach can backfire quicker than the previous approaches we discussed.  If you are not genuine or you are making things up, the customer will sense it and become guarded or end the call all together.

It is said that you cannot sell to someone that you do not love.  When I first heard that phrase over 20 years ago I thought it was a little weird.  Since then I have learned that the love that was being referenced was really rapport and trust.  When you are connected with someone through rapport building then you are able to influence that person because they trust you.  Remember, trust is a special thing, not something you want to throw away by not being genuine or truthful.  Rapport with trust is the opposite of manipulation because you have the person’s interests in mind.

The results of proper rapport building is that at the end of the call the customer will feel grateful that they spoke to you.  The customer will feel more loyal to the appointment they made with you and will feel validated in their decision to do business with you and your dealership.



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