How To Build Rapport in Sales: 4 Steps To Earn Trust Quickly

Let's say that on paper, you have everything you need to blow past your quota. Your pipeline's packed to the brim with leads. Your product solves a legitimate buyer problem. Plus, everyone who gets on the phone with you is happy to chat.

And yet, you're still struggling to close. Even worse, your sales leads seem to be going cold the minute you start the conversation.

So, what's the problem?

The problem is, you're not building rapport before popping the closing question. And your monthly numbers (and your earning potential) are hurting because of it.

This guide will help you build rapport the instant your leads jump on the phone. We'll be looking at four simple steps you can start taking to up your rapport game today. We'll also go over a few examples along the way so you can see the steps in action.

What Is Rapport (And Why Does It Matter)?

What does rapport mean in sales anyway? First and foremost, it means to trust—trust that you're telling the truth. Trust that you're listening to your customer's needs. And trust that your product really will solve the buyer's problems.

For salespeople, building trust starts as a losing battle. Indeed, HubSpot Research found that 3% of buyers trust salespeople—just 3%!


It's clear, then, that salespeople like you have to work extra hard to build rapport. Because truth be told, you're likely starting the conversation with someone who's already skeptical of your motives.

So, how can having a better rapport with your leads help you close more sales?

  • It Builds a Long-Term Relationship: The purchasing process for B2B buyers can be exceedingly long. B2B sellers report that it's taking longer to close sales than a year earlier (35.52% longer, in fact). The strength of your relationship (determined by your rapport) is the anchor that keeps those leads from drifting away over time.
  • It Opens the Door to Understanding the Buyer's Needs: There is lots of corporate jargon in the B2B sales world. And cutting through the “synergy” speak to truly understand a potential customer's needs can be challenging. Building rapport with your lead breaks down the jargon wall. The prospect can then talk honestly and frankly about what they're looking for.
  • It Fuels Referrals: Referrals are a B2B salesperson's best friend. Referrals are easier to close; they spend more per purchase and are more loyal than regular sales leads. Plus, 84% of B2B decision-makers start the buying process with a referral. The more rapport you have with your customers, the more likely they'll be to throw referrals your way.

How To Build Rapport in Sales: 4 Simple Steps

how to build rapport in sales - 4 steps

Now that we've determined why building rapport in sales process is so important let's dive into how to do it.

There are four simple steps to build rapport with your potential buyers.

1. Find That Phatic Sweet Spot

The term “phatic communication” describes a conversation that has a social function. Talking about the weather, asking about the buyer's family, and commenting on last week's game are examples of phatic communication. And they're vital for building rapport with your buyers when you're on a sales call.

It's a shame, then, that some salespeople blow right past this valuable step. Some salespeople think since the topic isn't business, it has no place in the conversation. But in reality, small talk is the first way you can show you're interested in the customer, not just the commission. And that, of course, builds trust in your sales conversations.

Don't be afraid to talk about yourself too. No one likes talking to a robot. Giving your potential customer a small window into your life shows you're human. But be careful about blabbing on about yourself too much, though. No one likes a conversation hog either.

So, be sure to start your sales calls with a minute or two of phatic communication questions that will get them talking.

Example Questions

  • “How was your holiday weekend? We did nothing but barbecue and lounge for two days straight. How about you?
  • “So, how did you get into [department] over at [company name]?”
  • “I heard your team just achieved record numbers last year. What's your secret?”

2. Stay Genuine

Everyone knows that played-out cliché about the used car salesman. He's sneaky. He's slimy. And he'll do anything to get his prospect into a car today. But do you know what it is about that caricature that leaves people feeling so on edge? It's that he can't be trusted. He isn't skilled at building rapport.

Customers can smell a hungry salesperson. And they can tell when you're faking enthusiasm to manipulate them and get on their good side. So in a world full of skeptical buyers, the only way to build long-lasting relationships is by being a genuine salesperson.

So cut the act. Drop the overly confident persona. Eliminate the weird body language. And use the tips below to stay genuine every step of the way.

Tips to Stay Genuine:

  • Be yourself. Don't give false compliments or present yourself as something you're not.
  • Speak on the same level as the buyer. In the words of the famous marketer David Ogilvy, “The customer is not a moron. She's your wife.”
  • Be careful not to be over-the-top friendly. It could bring about distrust.

3. Learn To Listen More

Odds are you're a great talker. For most salespeople, it's why they got into the business in the first place. And while the gift of gab can undoubtedly come in handy, the art of keeping quiet is associated with better sales numbers.

According to revenue intelligence company Gong, top sales reps spend about 93% more time listening than bottom performing reps.


Just like any enjoyable conversation, sales calls should be two-way streets. On the one hand, listening more (rather than monologuing about the benefits of your product) helps your lead feel valued. It isn't a race to the pitch—which in all likelihood, they'll end up declining if you rush to get to.

But beyond that, more acute listening lets you fully understand the buyer's underlying needs. They're revealing the information that's going to shape their purchase decision. The more information you can take in, the more you can tailor your final pitch to meet the buyer's needs.

Try engaging in more active listening on your next sales call. This four-step process involves:

  1. Truly listening to the prospect.
  2. Confirming that you heard them correctly.
  3. Repeating the content and the feeling of the prospect's words back to them.
  4. Asking relevant follow-up questions to clarify your understanding of their situation further.

4. Build on Shared Experiences

People are more open to your ideas when they feel like they're on your team. It's why so many salespeople mirror the mannerisms and speech cadence of potential customers. Like attracts like. People buy from people they feel similar to.

You can use this human tendency to your advantage when building rapport with your prospects by tapping into shared experiences.

Early on in your rapport-building conversations, lean on your shared relationships. As mentioned before, the overwhelming majority of B2B decision-makers start the buying journey with a referral. That allows you to create more shared experiences by bringing that referral into the conversation.

  • Ask them how they know the referrer.
  • Talk a bit about how you helped the referrer solve their problem.

Using active listening later on in the conversation is a fantastic way to build a shared experience.

Together, you and the lead can work to define their needs further and develop a suitable solution. And you can leverage that shared experience to boost rapport along the way.

Example of Building a Shared Experience with Active Listening:

Seller: “So what I'm hearing is that your current CRM has worked well for years. But it doesn't have the functionality you need to carry out the new initiatives your marketing department has developed. Is that right?”

Buyer: “That's right. So we need a platform that offers the same functionality but also has more advanced lead tracking, forecasting, and contact management.” 

Seller: “Great, I think we're on the same page then. It sounds like our platform is going to be a perfect fit. Can I give you a demo?”

Buyer: “Yep, I'd love to see it in action.”

Building Rapport = Building the Sale

Building rapport is essential for establishing trust and convincing the lead that your product is the solution to their problem. Using the four simple strategies above, you can build rapport quickly and effectively with any buyer.

If you're getting on plenty of calls but still struggle to close the deal, try incorporating these steps into your processes. You just may be surprised how much of an impact they can have.

The skill of building rapport in sales is invaluable for the modern seller because when your competitors are hiding behind LinkedIn and social media, you can communicate with your buyer directly.

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