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How to Establish Rapport Face to Face

“All the people that like us are we and everyone else is they.” Rudyard Kipling

“We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.” Martin Luther King

A) Can Rapport be Developed with Body Language?

B) What Can You Do To Create Rapport?

C) Analysis Of Influence

D) Posture Pacing

E) Establishing Face To Face Rapport

F) Matching Breathing

G) How Do You Know When You Are In Rapport?

H) A Practical Illustration

I) Assessing Individual Body Talk

A) Can Rapport be Developed with Body Language?

You have targeted and identified your market, made your approaches and developed rapport. You have then listened for needs and matched them to benefits that you offer. Along the way, you dealt with questions and objections whilst maintaining enthusiasm and energy. All that is left now is to finalise the deal. If you have done your job properly this should be as simple as asking, “Shall we go ahead then? or similar. Your whole contact has been leading to this moment where a prospect turns into a customer.

• Having something in common.

• A state between two or more people that precedes influence.

• Sharing a ‘personal chemistry’ with your customer.

• A co-operative relationship.

• Being on the same wavelength as your customer.

• Being in tune with each other.

• Seeing things the same way.

• When two act as one.

• A like-mindedness.

Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world so that they feel that you understand them, that you have a strong common bond. It is the ability to go fully from your perception of the world to theirs. When this sympathetic relationship or understanding is established, then an environment of trust, confidence and participation is developed. It will also make it easy for you to see things from their perspective, what good selling is all about.

B) What Can You Do To Create Rapport?

Have something in common, it is as simple as that. This requires a flexible attitude to leave your world and enter somebody else’s to create rapport. The biggest barrier is thinking that other people look at the world in the same way you do. I have extensive experience with entrepreneurs in both increasing sales and motivating staff. The most common mistake is assuming other people are motivated the same way you are. Some of the questions I ask a new client include, what motivates your key customers, what motivates you and what motivates any staff you have, if appropriate? Few have clear answers, and yet these answers are absolutely crucial to massively increasing the size and profits of their business. There is no right way to view the world, hence the saying ‘The customer is always right’. If you wish to change their view you first have to establish rapport with them, otherwise you will be talking to a brick wall!

If you are flexible you can develop rapport with everybody. If you find yourself up against what appears to be resistance, this is your signal to be flexible and try a different tack. Before the end of this chapter you will have gone a long way to mastering these skills. At this point your mastery will only be developed by ‘going live’ practising your skills and observing the results you attain. This will lead to new and better habits being formed. At this point you will find it difficult not to develop near instant rapport with everyone you meet. I always say to people on my sales business development trainings, that learning and understanding techniques wont improve your results, new habits will.

When people are in rapport they match each other’s behaviour at various levels and the opposite is also true. When people are not in rapport they mismatch at various levels. Some of these levels are more significant than others; this is discussed in the next chapter.

Mastering the skill of building rapport requires the ability to be sensitive and observant to information given by the client, and then to use this information by taking action, being flexible and adjusting your response accordingly. Once you have been taught the techniques mastery depends on your ability to perceive other people’s postures, gestures and speech patterns and then the elegance in which you can match them.

When people think similar they look similar.

When people look similar they think similar.

Progress Now:

What can you do to develop rapport at a client visit?

C) Analysis Of Influence

I have previously referred to the relative influence of the three ways in which we communicate. This shows that establishing a good rapport with body language will be far easier than achieving it with words. Most of us, however, rely on words to develop this common bond and are more adept at it, despite the fact that developing a common bond with body talk is so simple and so powerful. One test concluded that the relative influence as 55% body language, 38% tonality, 7% words. For theorists those figures and the research can be looked at deeper. For our practical purpose this is enough information. It means that if true the difference in influences between the written word and something said face to face can be represented as follows:

Good morning Alex, how are you today?

Written < words >

Face To Face < body language >< tonality >

Progress Now:

What changes will you make personally in light of the above knowledge?

D) Posture Pacing

As you now know there is much more for the receiver to perceive from a given communication than the communicator can know consciously. The notion that there are large portions of our communicated behaviour unavailable to ourselves, yet revealed to the world, can be disconcerting. However carefully we might choose our words the rest of our behaviour speaks most eloquently to the knowledgeable receiver.

Mirroring is not the same as mimicry. Mimicry is exaggeration of a behavioural feature. Mirroring is the subtle, behavioural reflection of the meaningful, unconscious communications each of us offers to the attentive receiver. Mirroring at first can sometimes feel awkward, even manipulative. It soon becomes unconscious and respectful. It is only necessary to become similar in practice, not exactly the same.

The level of rapport you establish with someone is determined by your ability to pace them. Pacing means getting in rhythm with that person. If you are by nature a good listener and flexible you will do all the right things anyway. You communicate with someone through body language the second you meet them. You cannot not influence them even if you remain quiet, and it only takes a matter of seconds to establish rapport.

Modern psychology has now firmly established that conscious or unconscious pacing, i.e. matching of patterns, is what determines the state of rapport. Most sales people who call on me don’t do this, instead they operate in their own patterns of behaviour. When they do develop rapport it is by accident.

When you match body language as well as developing rapport, something else of value happens. As our brain and body are part of one system, by matching you will also be accessing the same parts of your brain as they are. This will give you some surprisingly accurate intuitive thoughts as to what they are thinking, what they will do next and how they may react to any proposal. Even better news, this will come to you unconsciously, no effort other than the ‘matching’ is required. So go with your instincts: these are based on a lot more reasoning than you realise and will usually be correct. Like a lot of things in this book, you may find this hard to believe without the evidence of personal experience. So, please experiment and see what you find.

E) Establishing Face To Face Rapport

We know that 55% of communication is by body talk. So where do you think the greatest potential is for establishing rapport? Face-to-face rapport is most effectively achieved by simply adopting a similar body language to theirs. The main areas of matching body language can be summarised as follows.

• Similar movements

• Posture

• Orientation

• Weight distribution

• Gestures (arms, hands, legs, and feet)

• Facial expression

• Eye contact

• Rate of blinking

• Breathing

• Head tilting

• Eye squinting

• Flicks of the eyebrows

When you use the technique of matching, your clients will have the subjective experience of being really understood. After all, you are speaking their body language. You cannot verbally talk your way out of problems you body talk yourself into. You can, however, behave your way out of problems you talk yourself into.

After a short period of time as a people watcher, you will notice that people instinctively mirror each other as they develop rapport. You can now begin to do so deliberately to achieve specific outcomes. Start by mirroring just one aspect of another person’s behaviour while talking to them. When this is easy and becomes second nature, add another, match things such as arm movements while talking, until you are mirroring without thinking about it.

The more you practise the more you will become aware of the rhythms that you and others generate. Notice the degree to which couples mis-match at every level when they fall out, in contrast to when they are doing well with one another.

Beware of attaching ‘labels’ to body language. Different body posture changes can mean different things for different people. You must first get into their world and then you will realise what a particular body posture means for them. Neurology and physiology are directly related. In other words, when you move in unison with someone you are accessing the same parts of your brain as they are theirs, which is why rapport is created. More than rapport, and as you become successful at making the distinctions, you will almost always know more about your prospect’s continuing experience than the prospects themselves are consciously aware of.

Progress Now:

Next time you are out, observe people and see what you notice with reference to the above.

F) Matching Breathing

Many people find the concept of matching breathing to establish rapport difficult, when they first learn of it. Consider this, the human body requires the supply of three key resources in order to maintain life-food, water and air. If you fast and deny yourself food, you will probably last for between three to six months. If you fast by cutting out water you will probably live for three to six days. If you are denied breath you are unlikely to live as long as six to eight minutes. The point is that air is the most crucial thing to the body, not food and water. Eastern mystics have always been aware of this and any book on Yoga will teach you a range of breathing exercises that will better utilise this resource in the body.

Our breathing rate is part of the same system, life force as our pulse, blinking and a whole range of bodily processes. By matching breathing you are immediately setting up what is known technically as a biofeedback loop and lock straight in to somebody’s internal world. I like to explain it in terms of tuning in to their frequency.

Calibrating a person’s breathing becomes easier with practice and training. It is easier to notice than you might think, it is just a matter of focus. Some people breathe so strongly it is quite clear; in others you can detect a slight movement up and down of their shoulders relative to a fixed point behind. Some people sigh frequently, which gives the pattern. People are, of course, breathing out while they are talking. If you want to develop your skill at this technique get two friends to help you. Have one of them stand behind the other who is sitting. Standing behind is a good point to observe breathing. Have this person do nothing other than observe the breathing of the seated person from close quarters and to show it to you by raising their hand up and down with large sweeps in time and size with the breathing. Observing this you can pace the hand movements easily and talk in the same patterns. Practise at least a dozen times like this in half-hour sessions and you will start to find that it is becoming habitual. Taking away the support then will not make any difference as you have trained your sensory antenna to a new level.

As mentioned earlier, be careful of interpreting body language that basically says ‘x posture means y’ apart from the most obvious. You may interpret somebody sighing as being bored or frustrated, whereas actually they have mild asthma. This does not tell you how to utilise this knowledge with reference to your objectives. If somebody’s fist is banging on the desk it is probably a fair guess that they are angry. However, when we are trying to interpret subtle postures or changes in posture you can make sweeping generalisations but they are not going to be true for everybody. By pacing you can calibrate for the individual. In other words, when Harry folds his arms it means that he is resistant. When Mary folds her arms it means that she is cold. When John folds his arms it is because he is conscious of his paunch and wishes to cover it. By pacing we are avoiding the risk of being wrong and we respect everybody as an individual.

Have you ever observed total strangers at a football match? As the game progresses they sway together, applaud, jump up, chant, cheer and boo together. The fans on both sides do everything in unison with their fellow fans and at different times to the opponent fans. They are establishing and developing a deeper rapport with each other whilst moving further away from the facing fans. Bad behaviour when the two conflicting groups meet is not so much surprising as inevitable!

G) How Do You Know When You Are In Rapport?

Simply, when you change your posture and the other party then mirrors you. Next time you are out, observe the postures people adopt in relation to who they are with or talking to. See if your own evidence supports the idea that when people are in rapport their posture is similar. Conversely, when people are not, are their postures clearly different? When in rapport, what do you find happens if one changes posture?

Watch people in a restaurant, a pub, wine bar or night club, perhaps a couple out together, or a sales representative entertaining a client. When they are in rapport do they tend to retain eye contact, nod simultaneously, heads moving in similar ways, shoulders at the same angle, arms in the same posture? It is essential that you go out and observe this for yourself. If you do, you will create a belief change and you will find your patterns beginning to automatically change to gain rapport.

Posture pacing someone means first noticing how they use their body language. It may be a clap of the hands, a tap on the desk or drawing imaginary pictures in front of themselves. If you describe your points back to them, drawing them out in this way, it will be meaningful in the customer’s world. It gets your message through in their language. Some may consider this manipulative, I consider it service. I think that it is the salesman’s duty to talk the future client’s language and develop rapport in any way he can. Have you ever entered a showroom and been ignored, and walked out? Then gone into another showroom, met a professional who developed rapport and got into your way of seeing the world? From this information he clearly explained to you the benefits of a particular product that suited you. He then closed the deal. That is what I want, in fact that is what most people want from a salesman. I enjoy spending money and I want to buy things that are going to add value to my life. I consider it exploitative when this is not done and I just come up against pushiness, pressure, lack of integrity or just not being listened to.

I am not saying that you have to mirror every slight movement; it need not be so literal that it is obvious. Posture pacing is an unconscious mind communication. Unless we deliberately set out to do so, we do not consciously notice the body talk of others. Ask yourself what the postures were on the last three meetings that you had. I suspect that you had to really think about it. During a sales presentation you have a lot to think about. Matching body language while thinking about what to say, handling objections and listening attentively is rather a lot to do. In fact your conscious mind (left brain) can only process up to nine pieces of information at a time. Clearly a lot has to be filtered out and concentration has to be placed on the most critical parts. The way to do this is to develop your body language rapport skills to a level where it is carried out unconsciously. In other words, every time you meet someone you automatically match them without realising you are doing it. That way your conscious mind is left free to pay attention and listen.

Progress Now:

When you think you are in rapport with someone in a face to face meeting, move your arm and see if they follow.

H) A Practical Illustration

Once I accompanied a colleague on a sales presentation to pitch for an assignment to recruit a Financial Director for a major manufacturer of aircraft components in Surrey. My colleague took the lead and I supported him. Not having to concentrate on what I was going to say next I had the opportunity to concentrate on what I could observe.

I watched every movement and paced it. I moved forward, moved my arms and even matched his breathing. I then tried leading the client to a more relaxed posture by sitting back and slowing my breathing rate. The client followed. I started to smile increasingly. He followed. The first time this happens it can frankly be a bit spooky. Remember that the objective in sales is to understand somebody else, make the trouble to get into their world so that you can suggest a solution that meets their needs. Bear in mind that he never directly looked at me during the presentation, as he was concentrating on the dialogue he was having with my partner. We had established an empathy bond on a totally non-verbal level. The point is that non-verbal rapport is all that you need. When you have rapport you do not have to keep agreeing with the client, you can disagree verbally and still maintain rapport and your differing views will be considered openly.

We got the deal by offering something that exactly met his needs, there and then against stiff competition. That is one of the things I like about maintaining rapport through body language alone. You are not tempted to agree when you do not in fact agree and still know that you are not risking the deal.

The more you pace non-verbally the more you will notice how different everybody’s posture and movements are. Remember, by pacing their physiology you will also be accessing the same neurological circuits in your brain. This means that you will start receiving ‘intuitions’ about what he or she is going to do or say next. You will literally be getting into their world more and more. This is paying respect, and not forcing your ‘model of the world’ on them. Only when you have entered their world will you know what is best for the future client. Establishing this, pointing it out and then supplying it is professional selling. Establishing it and realising that what you offer is not the best solution for the prospect and suggesting alternatives is professional selling. Pretending that your goods and services match his requirements when you do not believe it, is negative manipulation and unethical. No respectable company will support this. Few customers will supply references, referrals or future orders. Thinking long-term while working under extreme short-term pressures (targets) is one of the things that separates the very top performing sales people from the average.

When you have rapport the next stage is to lead the prospect to where you want him to go. Now you go ahead changing their behaviour by getting them to follow your lead. You can test if you have rapport by changing your body language in some way, such as crossed-legged to uncrossed and seeing if they follow. They are now receptive to what you want to say and you can lead the conversation. You can proceed to find their needs and then match your products or services to them. Because you are in a heightened state of rapport, repetitive test closing will be unnecessary.

I) Assessing Individual Body Talk

There are so many different possible expressions, combinations and permutations in body talk that a full listing would read like a Spanish-to-English dictionary (to someone who doesn’t speak Spanish). In the face alone, with its complex system of muscles, there are over 15,000 different expressions that are possible. The more prominent ones are fairly obvious, and are certainly worth knowing. But what I am interested in here is the more subtle ones that are peculiar to the individual and are far more numerous. Body language signs are different for different people. Therefore you have to calibrate for each individual.

The best way to develop your skill in understanding body language is not by studying books at all. Get a partner to stand to the left of you, and then say something that he agrees with and believes passionately. Then get him to stand to the right of you, and say something that is an outright lie. Observe every muscle in his face; what was different? Colour, colour change, a slight twitch somewhere before a lie, a flick of the brow, a slower speed or different volume? Repeat the drill until you are confident that you have calibrated his physiological unconscious responses. Then get him to say something without telling you if it is truth or lie and see what if you guess it. If you can you have learnt the art of personal body language calibration. He would have to have the acting ability of Dustin Hoffman to disguise his true feelings.

As you become more adept you can repeat the exercise using less extreme examples. For example, get your partner to make statements about foods they like and foods they don’t like. After each practice session you will be surprised at just how much information you can read from their face.

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