There's a big difference between building rapport with customers in-person versus building rapport through the phone.
In person, you can read a prospect's body language and engage with them in a setting that makes them feel comfortable — but phone calls are a different ballpark. On a sales call, you must gauge their tone, form trust, and engage prospects through your words and delivery.
We'll provide you with our best techniques for building rapport over the phone, but before we dive in, let's quickly discuss what rapport is in the first place.
What is rapport in business?
Rapport is a friendly, harmonious relationship that can form during business conversations that assumes positive intent between both parties.
Why is building rapport important?
You don't win deals with a sales pitch and a signature on the dotted line alone. Establishing trust, understanding, and mutual agreement can take an initial conversation with a prospect to a real connection with a loyal customer.
So, what techniques can you use to build this relationship over the phone? Let’s break it down.
How to Build Rapport Over the Phone
- Open with a positive attitude and a clear directive.
- Be respectful and remember names.
- Find common ground.
- Match your prospect's energy.
- Let them know you understand their problem.
- Ask productive questions.
- Stay attuned to and reflect your prospect’s feelings.
- Summarize and go over the details.
- Show appreciation for your prospect's time.
1. Open with a positive attitude and a clear directive.
According to Gong.io, salespeople who state their reason for calling have a 2.1 times higher success rate. If you couple clear intentions with a positive tone and attitude, then you're letting prospects know you mean business.
Pro Tip: This may sound silly for a phone call, but smile when you introduce yourself and start the conversation. If you're speaking in a positive tone, the person on the other end can hear and imagine you based on the positive qualities you exude in the first minute of the call.
2. Be respectful and remember names.
Make sure to address people by their preferred titles and identity. While you can't see who is on the other line, you must familiarize yourself with their profile to avoid running the risk of misspeaking or potentially offending them.
Pro Tip: Weave your prospect's name throughout the conversation as reinforcement. For example, using phrases like, "Thank you for sharing that detail, Mrs. Matlock." is a way to acknowledge the prospect and subtly demonstrate respect.
3. Find common ground.
Finding connections is an integral part of how we build rapport with others in our personal lives, and it works the same way in business.
Pro Tip: Don't get too comfortable, too fast. You can bond over something you enjoy, but don't start cracking jokes or debates with your prospect — you don't want to wind up putting them off.
4. Match your prospect's energy.
Do your best to match certain elements of how your prospect speaks — considering elements like their tone or pace. This subtle form of mimicry displays strong listening skills and will help you build rapport without changing your character.
Pro Tip: While you want to match your prospect, you don't want to be devoid of your personality or speaking style. You're not a mime, after all.
5. Let them know you understand their problem.
You, as a salesperson, are supposed to let prospects know that you’re listening to them, and that you see where they’re coming from. Demonstrate your attentiveness by incorporating verbal nods and reiterating key points that your prospect has shared in the call as you discuss your solutions.
Pro Tip: While you listen to a prospect relay their problems over the call, let them explain the situation in full to you before you chime in. Otherwise, you run the risk of making assumptions or offering a solution that’s not fully personalized to their situation.
6. Ask productive questions.
To build rapport over the phone, you have to ask rapport-building questions.
As a salesperson, you always want to understand where your prospect is coming from, as best you can. That means you have to understand their circumstances based on factors like their resources, business size or scale, and where they’re trying to get in their own career development.
Pro Tip: You can use the information you gain from productive questioning to form more informed decisions on how to solve for the customer.
7. Stay attuned to and reflect your prospect’s feelings.
Be considerate and empathetic throughout your sales calls. Plain and simple.
Prospects are coming to you for solutions, so reassure them while they explain their situation to you. The last thing you want to do is brush off their concerns or feelings — that will make them feel invalidated and push them away.
Pro Tip: Some rapport-building phrases you can use over the phone could be, "I understand how this issue could have affected..." or, "I can imagine how frustrating it's been to…" These phrases are subtle ways to provide vocal support that doesn't sound condescending.
8. Summarize and go over the details.
At the end of your call, the best thing you can do is recite a summary of the talking points. It’s a great way to demonstrate just how attentive you are and show that you gave the prospect your undivided attention for the call’s duration.
Pro Tip: If you take it a step further, let the customer know what you'll do between this call and your next. Use phrasing like, "Here's what I'll do next to ensure…" or "Since you raised concern over… I'll make sure to…" A salesperson who is specific and actionable will be considered more of a trusted adviser than your typical rep.
9. Show appreciation for your prospect's time.
What better way to close a call than to show some appreciation?
Thank your prospect for their time, attention, and understanding. Let them know their success means just as much to you as it does to them. Additionally, you want to provide them with clear steps on when and how to contact you to make a purchase.
Pro Tip: Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect. If you had just shared your problem, concerns, desires, and hopes — you'd want to feel understood and appreciated. Give them that same gratitude, and let that call be a stepping stone to making your next loyal customer.
Your Next Phone Call Could Be Your Next Connection
Building rapport isn’t exclusive to in-person exchanges. It’s something that you can do successfully with a headset and mic or just a cellphone. We hope you find success in building relationships that last in your future sales calls.