When you get stuck in WIIFM, you’re not as “other” oriented as you should be. Building rapport is much easier and successful when you focus on what’s in it for others (WIIFO).
In conversation, focusing too much on your own thoughts and what you’ll say next stands in the way of personal connection and rapport. It is better to come to the discussion well versed on the area that you’re addressing and then to have that conversation with a nonjudgmental, open mind.
Consider the Buddhist parable of the empty cup. You can come into a conversation so full of information that nothing more gets in, just as pouring tea into an already full cup causes it to spill over. But, if you are ready to listen, becoming an “empty cup,” you can receive more than you came with.
Building rapport happens when there’s real openness about what is actually going on in the moment between you and the other person. You’re not talking to an organization, but an individual — a person, a human being — who is largely an emotional being. So, if you’re not connecting at an emotional level, which is beyond the realm of words and thoughts, you might be too focused on yourself.
Empathy and compassion are important in building rapport in today’s fast-paced world. People can feel when you’re being authentic and trying to connect with them. Instead of focusing just on your own agenda, think about the other person’s agenda. You have to be self-aware and then be “other” aware.
At Richardson, we teach rapport as a blend of art and science. You can see the energy flowing when participants practice skills like body language, especially when modeling “matching” behavior. If this sounds too touchy-feeling to you, think about neuro-linguistic programming, a field that involves the connection of thought processes, language, and behaviors.
On a more basic level, rapport is an awareness of the other person’s communication style and then being sensitive to it. If someone is a fast or slow talker, match his/her speed. Otherwise, you could either overwhelm the person or cause him/her to tune out. When you smile, be sincere — use your mouth and your eyes to express yourself. The passion of your speech and spirit of your conviction make your intent visible to the other person.
As with any aspect of the sales dialogue, being skilled at building rapport takes forethought and practice. The goal is to create a connection and build on it in a way that is concise and genuine. This can happen in the first two to ten minutes or more, depending on the client, the situation, and the culture. Regardless of how much time it takes, it’s worth it to make the effort to differentiate yourself and create a personal connection.