How to Influence Your Clients by Building and Leading Rapport

Let’s talk about building/leading/breaking rapport. 

Rapport is the connection and harmonious relationship with others. Building rapport is the process of developing that connection. Most people think rapport just happens “naturally”, but trained people know how to consciously build or break rapport.  This is a very important skill for sales people.

Why do we need to build rapport with others?  People tend to get along well with others who are “like them” or “similar to them”.  We tend to easily agree with others with whom we have a good rapport. If you are in good rapport with your clients, you have a much higher chance to win the sales. On the other hand, if you are not in good rapport with your clients, it’s almost guaranteed that your sales attempt would fail.

Many talk about “First Impression”.  Yes, that’s critical.  You have an average of 20 seconds to give people a good first impression. What’s next? – Building rapport!

Most sales people would have already had some training in this. We know that rapport can be established through Matching/Mirroring.

What is Matching and What is Mirroring?

In simple words, Matching means you do the same thing as the other. If they raise their left hand, you raise your left hand.  Mirroring means you do the opposite to the other. When you are face to face with the other person, if they raise their left hand, you raise your right hand, so it’s like you are looking into the mirror.

Matching and Mirroring are not just about gesture, we can also Match/Mirror in many other forms of physiology, tonality and words. 


  • Posture, gesture, facial expression, breathing, blinking.
  • Voice, pitch, speed, volume.
  • Words:  Key phrases, predictions, Common experiences

We gain rapport at an unconscious level. Learning some skills of how to consciously influence that unconscious level will give you great advantage.

You can do some of the following to build/lead rapport:

Pacing:  Matching certain aspects of the other person’s behaviour. (physiology, tonality, words…)

Leading:  Once you have already built rapport, change your own behaviour for the other one to follow you. Doing so will give you a better chance for leading the other person to agree with you.

At certain times, you need to break the rapport.  Why? 

  • When the other person is going off the topic, you want to redirect them to your topic.
  • When the other person is very stubborn in his own opinion, you might want to purposely break rapport in order to interrupt them. Then re-build the rapport and try to lead them to consensus.
  • When you want to terminate the conversation but the other person doesn’t seem to get your other hints or clue.

This skill takes some practicing. And remember these Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Only pick a couple of aspects to do your Matching and Mirroring. Generally speaking, not more than 3 aspects. Don’t do too much!
  2. Only use rapport building techniques at the beginning of meeting. Once the rapport is built, you don’t need to keep doing the Matching and Mirroring, unless somehow the rapport was broken and you need to re-build it.
  3. Building rapport is NOT “manipulating”. It is just another skill for more effective communication.  It is in the same basket as your studies about people’s posture, for example.