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How To Establish Rapport on the Telephone

“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” – William Shakespeare

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

A) Rapport On The Telephone

B) Listening In On A World Of Difference

C) High-Level Pacing

D) The Hierarchy Of Rapport

E) Moving On Once Rapport Is Established

A) Rapport On The Telephone

I cannot imagine any entrepreneur who does not have to sell on the telephone. As a call travels a variety of distances instantaneously, it is perhaps the best and fastest way to sell. The biggest drawback is time spent finding out that the person you wanted is not in, however the advent of mobile telephones has reduced this considerably. On the telephone you influence the other speaker with the words that you say and also the way (tonality) that you say them.

Progress Now:

What percentage respectively, do words and tonality have on influencing the listener?

a) 75% words 25% tonality

b) 50% words 50% tonality

c) 25% words 75% tonality

On the telephone, one study concluded that 84% of the message is communicated through how you speak (tonality) and only 16% through words.

“My quality of after-sales service is excellent.”

“Would you mind…………………………….”

“Could I ask you………………………………”

Telephone: < Words >< Tonality >

The point being is that how you say the above will be what determines if the listener is convinced or not!

Progress Now:

Try this exercise and have fun now with a partner.

Make a list of ten positive words and ten negative words.
First speak the positive words but with a negative tone to your partner.
Then speak the negative words but with a positive tone to your partner.
Ask them which experience they found the most uplifting.
When I have done this in training situations everyone has found that the most uplifting experience is when the negative words are used. Interestingly most people found it difficult to use words that did not align with their body language.

Let us therefore look at tonality first. Like body language, rapport is developed by matching, so what can we match?

When matched, your tone of voice i.e. your rhythm, speed, timbre, pitch, volume, enthusiasm, etc will develop near instant rapport, irrespective of what is being said. Clearly what is being said can enhance or work against this ‘tonal’ rapport, but the effect is minimal. The unconscious mind, where the decisions are made, will pick up everything in your tone, although it may not communicate its knowledge to the conscious mind. That is why this is so hard to believe. You are considering it consciously.

It follows that telephone selling based upon scripts could potentially be improved six times. There is a lot more to it than ‘Smile As You Dial’. In fact, that approach on many occasions will lose you sales. However NLP techniques can be learnt and applied by anyone, guaranteeing near instant rapport. When this happens you will start to look forward to telephone canvassing and the constant ‘buzz’ of success that it brings them. After applying these techniques you will find that you change excuses into results.

Taking the prospect’s words, attaching your meaning to them, translating them into the language you use, and communicating from your linguistic style, are all steps that are arbitrary on your part, and are quite likely to lead to confusion.

Using the language of your client is the best way to have an impact on him or her. Words represent experience, and even though we use a common language, our experiences are necessarily different. If you use somebody’s own words back to them they will instinctively feel that they have been understood.

Imagine you are about to call someone. Unknown to you, they have had a whole month of bad news and to top it all their wife has just rung and said that the house is flooded from a burst water main. Having just finished a book called ‘Smile As You Dial’, you open: ‘Hi, good morning, isn’t it wonderful? Hey, you sound down, what’s the matter? Cheer up, I’m sure everything is going to work out great.’ All said with a lively enthusiastic tonality. Their reaction would be one of the following:

1.Totally uplifted by this completely positive person, forget their problems and consider placing a big order; or

2.Be totally wound up, and wonder why it is always them who have these problems, why it is them who always get these phone calls. Then tell you to get lost, politely if you are lucky.

I think you will agree it is answer two. You have to be sensitive and then responsive. Can I suggest that when on the phone (as opposed to face-to-face, when body talk will immediately indicate the mood of the prospect) you match everything you can, words and tone, remembering that getting the tone right will have a far greater effect than the words. However, practise one thing at a time. In your next ten calls, speak back to the caller in the same tone of voice that they use, fast/slow, enthusiastic/calm, changing tempo/monotone, changing pitch/constant pitch, etc. If you are still not convinced try mismatching some calls and see how much rapport develops.

In tonal matching you can find yourself emotionally pacing. You call a person in a very bad mood. They say: ‘Oh dear, I suppose you’re looking for an order. We are totally overwhelmed here today.’ You respond: ‘Oh dear, what exactly is the problem?’ in a similar tone of voice. You experience the emotion of the moment with them, whatever that emotion happens to be. Matching a strong emotion gets you strong rapport fast.

Now think about this. Think of a time recently in you life when you have found yourself with somebody who was emotional, positively or negatively. Remember how you reacted to them and what effect this had on them. If you are still not convinced try mismatching and watch the result. The next time you are with someone who is angry, or ‘throwing a wobbly’, say ‘Calm down’, or ‘Stop Shouting’, in a really calm voice. In my experience this throws oil on the fire. Next time say in a matching volume and style, ‘Oh no, I can really understand why you are angry’ and then lead on to calmer grounds.

B) Listening In On A World Of Difference

Okay, so it’s not what you say but how you say it. Have you noticed that people speak at different speeds? We speak at the rate which is comfortable for us. In fact, we change our speed due to changes in our internal state. However, we all have a ‘default’ rate that we are most comfortable with. If we are comfortable speaking at this rate it follows that we would find it easier to listen to someone speaking at the same speed. Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone who talks very fast and finding it difficult to communicate with them? Or the opposite, somebody who talks very slowly and you become frustrated, urging them to speed up. Well, if you want to get on to somebody’s frequency fast you can do so immediately by talking at the same speed as them.

Similarly, people talk at different volumes. We can even make sweeping generalisations by nationality. How would you compare the volume of normal speech of a German and a Frenchman? The same rules apply. We all believe that the ‘normal’ volume for speech is the one that we happen to be talking at. Therefore if you wish to get on to your future client’s frequency try speaking at the volume he does.

Incidentally, when you are on someone’s frequency, in rapport, they are unlikely to notice you pacing them. To them you are talking normally. When I am leading seminars I always change my tone of voice to match that of a person asking a question. Sometimes other delegates notice the change but the person who asked the question never has, even when discussing tone. Try it yourself to see (and hear) what you find.

Always remember that non-verbal pacing has more influence than tone and language combined. If the prospect talks about his hobby of train-spotting, which you find thoroughly boring, that’s great. Non-verbally pace and concentrate on listening to every word and calculate how it can be utilised. You will be developing a deep rapport without saying a word, gaining valuable information on the client’s needs, style and interests, which may be used later in achieving the required result.

Now we have another medium that for many is the main communication medium-e-mail. On e-mail we have taken out the body language and the tonality. The advantage with e-mail is that we have a written record of the language patterns of everyone we communicate with. We can thus analyse them at our leisure unlike telephone or face to face meetings.

Progress Now:

How can you develop rapport using the telephone?

How can you develop rapport using e-mail?

C) High-Level Pacing

At the highest level of our mind are our beliefs, values and identity. Pacing at this level can be very profound indeed as these areas are by definition the most important part of us, determining our behaviour in any situation. As they are so important, pacing someone else in these areas might cause internal conflict with your own beliefs, value and identity. Let us have a brief look at each in turn.


I am…

I am a Christian, British, a creative entrepreneur, a father and husband….

What identity or identities are important for you?

Values and Customs

Gentleman wearing a suit collar and tie to the office is the only acceptable form of dress, is an example of a value in the corporate world. Dress code can vary between sector and company. Wearing smart casual to a visit wont work here!


‘You get what you pay for’. Or, ‘Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.

These types of beliefs tend to be deep and thus are difficult to change. I therefore suggest matching them; show how your proposal conforms to the belief and is in accordance with it.

Corporate culture, a mixture of all the above, is usually a high level of rapport where one can identify with the group. Those of you who have teenage children will know just how powerful group psychology can be. Or is it just coincidence that they happen to like the same clothes, foods, pop stars and places all at the same time! Behavioural studies have long shown us how powerful peer pressure to conform in a group can be. When the informal rules for conformity are established, anyone not abiding with them will simply not fit in. Corporate culture manifests itself in terms of dress, style of suit, tie, etc, attitudes, how superiors are addressed (Sir, Mr McMillan or Alex). In the army calling your immediate superior by his first name won’t go down well; in an advertising agency it would. One might expect more formality in a firm of accountants in the City than in the same firm’s office in the provinces. The point is that, more important than dressing as smartly as you can (and sometimes contrary to it), you should match your style of dress to that of the organisation you are visiting.

In China and Japan it is customary for all staff to start the day by singing the company song. What a way to get the team in total rapport, identity, values, beliefs, physiology, tone and language all at the same time!

The business lunch is a good opportunity to gain some very easy rapport-enhancing points. Have you ever gone to lunch with someone and had a pint of lager while they drank Perrier water? You are out of frequency with that person. You then order steak pie, chips and beans and they have a cheese sandwich. The disrapport that something like this creates is quite strong. People have a natural tendency to feel happy when they are like you. Have you heard the conversations of people in the bar discussing food or wine? Notice the amount of times you hear ‘I will if you will’. This could mean taking wine or not with the meal. Now, armed with this knowledge, ask your future client what they would like to drink first and match it. Find out what they are eating first and order something similar. This will get you far closer to getting their business than, for example, trying to impress them by insisting that you pay.

In a previous partnership we had offices in the City and in Sussex. A client lunch in the City was typically a bottle of quality wine in a classy restaurant. A client lunch in Sussex was typically a beer and a pie in a pub. In the City clients want to get straight down to business. In Sussex clients want to get to know you better and do not wish to be hurried. If there is so much difference in behaviour within 30 miles, imagine the variety of someone who transacts business internationally! Find out what they would prefer (all you need do is ask) and be flexible in your style to match theirs.

Consider that your future clients must communicate with you in some way. Therefore there is always enough communication to develop rapport and the only situation where you cannot develop rapport is when one of you turns their back and exits.

Additionally consider that the rapport techniques in this and the previous chapters have been developed from NLP practitioners, a large range of communicators enjoying formidable results. When practised and developed to a high degree these advanced, yet simple rapport skills produce incredible results in seconds.

Progress Now:

Think of your three top clients. How would you define their corporate culture?

D) The Hierarchy Of Rapport

Below is a summary of what you can mirror to establish rapport.

********* Personality *********




****** Physiological ******






**** Tonality ****






** Language **








Sensory Language System

E) Moving On Once Rapport Is Established

Once you have rapport, and that need only take up to a minute, you are in a position to lead to wherever you want to go. You are ‘hooking them’ on to you with your pacing. You are respecting their present world by talking to them in it. Following your lead, they will increasingly adapt your tone of voice after you speak. If this does not happen you have not established a strong enough state of rapport. No problem, just go back to stage one. When you have a high level of rapport, the client (for he will no longer be a prospect) is likely to say something along the lines of, ‘You know, you and I are very alike,’ or ‘we are kindred spirits’.

If rapport is about getting on the same frequency as your future client, the next stage is to listen, gathering information, then lead the conversation into matching client needs to offering and finally of course, to close the deal. You lead the conversation by well-directed questions. Then ask for the business.

Want your sales team breaking more ice and warming to hot those key decision makers? Call us now on 0203-6759099 or email