By: Daniel C. Finley

The Art of Building Rapport

I coach my clients in multiple ways and formats—in Team Coaching sessions when all of the team members are on the call, in Group Coaching sessions when one or two of the team members are a part of a group of other advisors and/or in an Individual Coaching setting when I am simply coaching advisors individually.

Recently, during a Group Coaching session Mike, a rookie financial advisor was role playing utilizing his cold call techniques.  As he went on I noticed that his process sounded more like an interrogation than a dialogue. When the “prospect” would respond with a question Mike would instantly fire off a question in return without making any attempt to answer what he had just heard from the prospect. As a result, the conversation seemed flat, one sided and lacked a connection.

 Why Rapport is Important:

Rapport is essential in creating an environment of trust.  How do you respect and appreciate another person’s views while still maintaining your own integrity? How can you sharpen your rapport building skills to build rapport with anyone?  To further understand strategies for building rapport we need to take a look at commonalities which occur when people have a rapport and when they do not.

Three Rapport Building Strategies:

During the face-to-face communication process three things are taking place simultaneously. First, words are being spoken. Although you may believe that your words are the most important part in building rapport typically your words are not. In fact, research shows that words are the least effective part of the communication process. Second, voice and tonality are being heard. Actors focus on honing their voice and tonality skills by practicing a dozen different ways to say the word “no”. We unconsciously have this ability, but rarely do we consciously focus on how our voice and tonality are spoken while in casual conversation. Third, body language is being spoken. This is by far the most effective form of building rapport because the listener is constantly unconsciously reading your body language to pick up any non-verbal clues in your communication.

So what does this have to do with building rapport?

Creating a Connection:

Effective communication flows when people are in rapport, their words, voice, tonality and body language tend to mirror each other. Although words can build or destroy a conversation, the words you say do not have as much impact as the rest of the message you are sending. What has the most impact is tonality and body language. To build rapport you must have some level of mirroring and matching of voice, tonality and body language.

Matching eye contact is probably the most common and often taught form of building rapport in this country. From childhood we are taught to look someone in the eye when speaking to them. However, we are rarely taught to match gestures, postures, voice tonality, pitch and speed. Often times this type of matching is considered taboo because it is viewed as mimicking. The Art of Matching is not mimicry, you can use a subtle technique which is called “cross over mirroring” to effectively match the other person. “Cross over mirroring” can be best explained if the other person creates wild arm movements, you can mirror with small hand movements. If the other person shifts their body to one side, you can shift your head to one side.

Another successful way to gain rapport is “voice matching”. Voice matching” is done by matching the other person’s speed, tone, pitch, rhythm and volume of their speech pattern. Think of this as a vocal dance and you are leading! As a financial advisor and business development consultant/coach who has spent fifteen years on the phone, I know how effective this strategy is! When people are like each other, they tend to like each other more, and people work with those they like

There are only two possible limitations to building rapport; your ability to perceive other peoples words, voices, tonalities and body language and your ability to do the mirroring and matching.

Improving Your Rapport Building Skills

The following week I had an Individual Coaching session with Mike and he admitted that his cold calling success rate had lacked its former luster. He had been pushing prospects away during his phone conversations because he had not been “voice matching”. They had unconsciously noticed this and mistook his eager tone as being insensitive resulting in pushing him away.

After an hour of role playing the same script with three different tones of empathy—less empathetic and to the point, semi-empathetic, acknowledging what he heard and very empathetic, giving examples of how he could relate to their concerns, he realized that he could make a better connection by simply listening and regulating “how” he was saying “what” he was saying to match them.

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