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Building Rapport: 8 Best Ways to Instantly Build Trust on Sales Calls  

Building Rapport: 8 Best Ways to Instantly Build Trust on Sales Calls  
Jenny Keohane
Jenny Keohane

Jenny Keohane

14 min read0 reads
Cold Calling, Prospects, Sales Calls 


  1. What Is
  2. How to Build Rapport in Sales
  3. Rapport Building Questions
  4. Conclusion: Practice Building Rapport

Your ability to build rapport with prospects is one of the most important skills (if not THE most important skill) to have in sales.

The old saying “people buy from people they like” still holds true, but in 2020, what holds the most truth is that people buy from people they TRUST.

There’s nothing more rewarding than getting on the phone with a prospect, engaging in dialogue and connecting, then closing a deal that’s mutually beneficial to both parties.

But let’s make one thing clear, sales reps will miss opportunities to connect and create rapport with prospects when they are driven by their own agenda and only benefiting themselves. The first step to rapport building is to put the prospect first. And this takes a customer-focused mindset.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Rapport Building?

Building rapport means building connections/relationships with others. This typically stems from sharing similar experiences or forming a mutual understanding between the two parties.

Rapport is super important in sales because people are way more likely to do business with those they know, like, or trust.

Your goal as a salesperson is to build this connection naturally with prospects — you hit it off.

Now, let’s look at 8 of the best ways to build rapport and establish trust on sales calls (and how you can implement these techniques today).

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How to Build Rapport in Sales

  1. Identify and Use Personal Connections
  2. Inflect Your Tone
  3. Use the Power of Consistency
  4. Use the Law of Reciprocity
  5. Develop Your Style
  6. Uncover Shared Interests
  7. Articulate Their Pain
  8. Match and Mirror Behavior

1. How to Identify and Use Personal Connections

A sales call shouldn’t only pertain to conversations about the sale being made, although that’s the main focus, try taking a more personal approach and see how the conversation takes a turn for the better.

Building rapport relies on a connection. And the most effective way to connect with others is on a personal level.

Remember, the person on the other end of the call has a life outside of work. Start with their LinkedIn and try to find commonalities. Then, ask them about it and spark conversation.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ways to do so, here are some questions you can try on for size:

  • I see you live in [city/state], I’m thinking about planning a trip there soon with my friends, what are your top recommendations?
  • I noticed you went to [college/university], I actually have a friend who went there, they said it was really [x]. How did you like it?
  • I noticed on LinkedIn you participated in [sport/hobby], I used to play as well, what position were you?

You get the gist. Get them talking about something outside of work to start off the conversation. You’ll help them feel more comfortable and the conversation should flow more effortlessly after this.

Also, you not only show you’re interested in the prospect but you spark a conversation where connections can be built.

2. How to Inflect Your Tone

Tonality can either make or break your sales call.

If you’re speaking too quickly or sound nervous, they will take that as you’re not confident in what you’re saying and will certainly not trust you. But on the other end, yelling will make you come off as aggressive and pushy. You need to find the sweet spot right in the middle.

The key is to speak calmly and thoughtfully. Master a solid pace and stick to it – not too fast, not too slow.

According to an analysis of 120 executive speeches by Quantified Impressions, they found that the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the message itself.

And we can’t forget about the 7-38-55 rule. These are the elements of personal communication – 7% through spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and 55% through body language.

Building Rapport: elements of personal communication

But when you’re on a sales call, the prospect can’t see your body language and eye contact, so tone accounts for even more. That’s why perfecting your tonality is so important.

Stay within your normal pitch. Both men and women will lower the pitch of their voices as a way to project authority. But listeners can always tell. You’ll come across as much more authentic and credible by using expressive speech (i.e. shifting from loud tones to soft tones) within your normal range.

Tip: Even when you’re on the phone and they can’t see you, watch your posture. Your body language and posture affect the tone of your voice.

It’s important to maintain positive body language throughout the call. Sit upright, push your shoulders back, stand up, smile, and keep your head up. Act as if you’re talking to the prospect in person.

Using body language can also help you articulate your thoughts better and speak more clearly and confidently.

3. How to Use the Power of Consistency

Consistency is one of the most important traits to have for any customer-facing role when it comes to building rapport.

Be consistent and follow through with your promises. Studies show that when a customer can predict your behavior, they are much more likely to trust you.

Consistent activities deliver consistent results. Follow a process and stick to it, it’s as easy as that.

Little things like showing up to a meeting on time, delivering, sending an agenda and sticking to it, etc. will make more of an impact than you think. If you say at the beginning of the call that it will only be 15 minutes, stick to that time frame.

One way to maintain consistency is to always make clear when scheduling your meeting what the meeting type is, the duration, the meeting agenda, etc.

Here’s a generic example of how to do this with Meeting Scheduler.

Meeting Scheduler Yesware

What you put here should remain true throughout the call – stick to the duration and the agenda you attached.

Also, make sure to follow through with your client and keep your promises. You have to not only gain their trust but maintain it.

calendarEasiest way to book more meetingsSend customizable links that sync to your calendar

4. How to Use the Law of Reciprocity

You need to give in order to get. This is the power of reciprocity.

This is one of Robert Cialandi’s principles of persuasion – people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.

In psychology, reciprocity is a universally accepted social rule. This social norm is instinctively engraved in us. And this can actually play a huge role in your sales outreach.

How can you provide value to cold calls?

The first step in providing your prospect with value is to research their company and role.

Look at their company website, their blogs, company social accounts, articles on current events, company updates, etc. There’s boundless information online to learn all about your prospect and their business.

Identify some key ideas that could help and provide value to the prospect and their company, such as:

  • Invite them to a conference or event
  • Make suggestions that could help their business
  • Provide them with relevant articles
  • Introduce a business connection
  • Introduce a possible candidate for an open position
  • Give them tips about top blogs for the industry
  • Recommendations on free business tools

The list goes on and on.

Even if it’s much smaller than these, show them you’re genuinely interested in helping them rather than only focused on selling your product or service.

If your role is to focus on helping them, the return will come naturally. AND will help with building rapport.

5. How to Develop Your Style

Your meetings should be a conversation, not a sales pitch.

In fact, in our Top Sales Statistics & Takeaways blog, the “talk-to-listen” ratio on sales calls made one of the top stats. There’s clear evidence that top sales reps listen more than talk in the discovery call.

Saleshacker found that the “highest yielding” B2B sales conversations hovered around a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio. So, on average, top sales professionals speak 43% of the time and the prospect speaks for 57% of the time.

Building Rapport: listen more than talk

For building rapport, you need to make the sales call as conversational as possible.

People generally like talking about themselves. And by allowing your prospect to do so, they’ll look back on the conversation in a more positive light.

Also, when the conversation is 2-way, they will feel more comfortable, like they’re chatting with a friend on the phone.

If your prospect isn’t talking, ask open-ended questions and get them talking. Once they’re comfortable, the dialogue will flow more smoothly and naturally.

6. How to Uncover Shared Interests

People like people who are similar to themselves. In psychology, this is known as the similarity-attraction effect.

If you can uncover a similarity with your prospects, you will have no problem building rapport.

These days, there’s no excuse for not learning about the prospect before the phone call. Social media and the internet have made this easy for you, giving you the leverage to spark conversation.

Check your prospect’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and public Facebook profiles for shared backgrounds, hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc.

Find inside connections and similarities on LinkedIn to build connections.Image

You can find similarities in career backgrounds, educational backgrounds, mutual connections, any connection with the city they’re living in now (build off that – sports teams, favorite restaurants, experiences in that area, etc.), hobbies, interests, the list goes on and on.

Always go into sales calls with a common similarity in mind and/or notes jotted down about the prospect’s experiences.

Your goal is to lead these connections into further conversation, the more you get talking and building connections, the more the relationship progresses and trust can be built.

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7. How to Articulate Their Pain Before They Tell You

Connecting with your prospects on a more personal level will certainly put you ahead, but what’s most important is to show them that you understand their pain points.

To now strengthen the initial rapport you’ve built, show them that you’re dedicated to understanding their issues and problems and solving these for them.

What’s surprising is, according to IBM, 78% of customers don’t feel understood by brands.

78% of customers don't feel understood by brands

That’s why it’s important to make your prospects feel understood. By making it clear that they’ve been heard – they’re more likely to listen to the message you’re trying to convey.

There’s no better way to solve your customer’s pain points than showing that you understand them and their problems.

And the best way to fully understand their pain points is to ask open-ended qualitative questions that require an in-depth explanation. This will give you a broader view of the problem and allows you to grasp as much information as possible.

Here are some questions you can ask to uncover your prospect’s pain points:

  • What takes up the most time in your day?
  • Why isn’t your current solution and/or process working for you?
  • What is the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?
  • You mentioned frustration around X. Can you elaborate?
  • What is preventing you from hitting your goals?
  • What’s the main thing you would say is holding your business back from growth?

In the questions above, your role is to carefully listen and pinpoint the issues that your solution specifically can solve. And when you present your solution, your response should be tailored around what the prospect said.

This way, you show active listening and address the prospect’s pain points head-on.

Always make sure to rephrase what the prospect said to make this clear, for example: “X will help save you hours per day” vs. “You mentioned you waste hours per day logging information, well X will reduce that by Y.”

8. How to Match and Mirror Behavior

Mirroring is a powerful psychological technique that helps with building rapport.

When people are engaged in a conversation — and it’s going well — it’s common to see them subtly imitate each other’s body language. Why? Matching behaviors create the sense that people are on the same page and convey feelings of trust and empathy.

In an experiment, researcher William Maddux tested the impact of this behavior on business negotiations. The results showed that when one student was instructed to mirror the other, the two parties reached a deal 67% of the time. But when they were told not to mirror, only 12.5% reached a deal.

Don’t change your personality, but make slight adjustments to match the prospect’s behavior.

On sale calls, you can only mirror the prospect through voice, so it’s important to pay attention to tone.

Every prospect has a distinct vocal style.

Try this out – adjust your tone and pace to be more similar to your prospects. If they’re talking faster, talk a little faster. If they’re talking slower, talk slower. This helps make the prospect feel more comfortable because you sound more like them.

Rapport Building Questions

Avoid that awkward small talk and bring up more open-ended sales questions that will spark conversations and build connections.

Here are some rapport building questions that will accomplish this:

  1. I see you live in [city/state], how do you like it?
  2. I see you live in  [city/state], have you ever tried [restaurant/local attraction]?
  3. Is it true what they say about living in [city/state]?
  4. I noticed you went to [college/university], I actually have a friend who went there, they said it was really [x]. How did you like it?
  5. I’m thinking about visiting [city/state] soon, what are your top recommendations?
  6. I noticed on LinkedIn you participated in [sport/hobby], I used to play as well, what position were you?
  7. In your LinkedIn summary, you mentioned you love [x]. How long have you been doing that?
  8. Congrats on [recent company news]! How long has that been in the works?
  9. I was looking at your site easier and came across [recent company news]. That’s awesome. What has that new process been like?
  10. I see you used to work for [company] as [position], I know someone who used to work there as well. Do you know [name]?
  11. I see you changed positions from [old position] to [new position]. I switched career paths as well and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made, although a tough one. What motivated you to go for it?

Conclusion: Practice Building Rapport

Make sure to practice building rapport. Practicing some of these techniques on the phone with a manager or colleague will help you understand what’s working and what’s not working.

Pick a handful of prospects – do your research, learn about them, find similarities. Then, role-play the conversation. Get feedback from your manager or colleague – does it sound natural?

The best thing you can do is make it sound and feel genuine and natural. You’re not just putting on an act to get them to like you.

Get critical feedback, keep practicing, and keep trying new techniques to see what works best for you and your prospects.

Once you’ve nailed down your approach, take it to the next level by creating a customized sales call script to keep you on track on each and every call.

Bonus: Watch Our Webinar — How to Build Trust & Rapport in Sales

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