November 16, 2020

The 4 Stages Of Sales Rapport

“Of the many ways salespeople establish rapport, utimately your striving for a positive relationship based upon mutual trust, understanding, and responsiveness,” says Hilmon Sorey, Managing Director at ClozeLoop. “It is not just established initially, it must be maintained throughout the four stages of developing rapport.”

Debate rages over how quickly a salesperson can create rapport.  Some argue that it can be established in an initial conversation if you demonstrate authority and relevance, others insist that a relationship must be developed built upon shared experiences.  Let’s stop the clown antics of attempting to mimic or match, entertain, or best-friend your prospect.  A repeatable process wins the day every time.  Let’s start with an understanding of the lifecycle of this elusive thing called “rapport”.

The Four Stages of Developing Rapport


First, you must attempt to understand your prospect and their environment in order to uncover specific challenges and opportunities which might provide an opportunity to do business. Today this runs the gamut from robust data science to basic buyer demographics, psychographics, and relationship networks. This peripheral information alone won’t make you the Pantheon of Trust, but it’s a great place to start.


Once you have an understanding of who your prospect is, what challenges they might be experiencing, what their workflow entails, it’s time to initiate a conversation. The goal of the conversation is to position yourself as a partner with the buyer in the sales process.  This can’t be done when you are hawking your wares, lack curiosity and are just trying to close a deal.  Nor is it effective to just become buddies.

“Sales is not about lunches, dinners, drinks, or kids’ birthdays. These relationship-building activities are fine but don’t mistake them for the science around which rapport is based” says Cory Bray,  Managing Director at ClozeLoop.
Working (The Sales Process)

Your sales process must be a collaboration between you and your prospect. Both parties need to consistently meet expectations to maintain rapport. This includes keeping meetings, do what you say you’re going to do, maintain mutual accountability, and making incremental decisions throughout.

Ongoing (Customer Success)

There is nothing worse than being taken care of while considering a product or service, and then dropped like a hot potato after you decide to buy.  But it happens all the time!  All of that goodwill wasted.  So, continue to focus on your new customer after winning the deal. Someone on the team (the salesperson, account manager, or customer success) continues to carry the torch by:

  • Setting clear expectations for measuring engagement or product success.
  • Defining an ongoing communication framework that includes regular cadence.
  • Ensuring a smooth hand-off to customer success, account management, or customer support.
  • Laying the groundwork for future referrals
  • Planting seeds for upsells, cross-sells, and renewals.

Signals that Rapport Exists

Rapport might sound like an elusive concept, but there are some clear signals that it has been established, including when the prospect:

  • Trusts the salesperson’s judgment. If it seems like prospects trust you with decisions around their product more than they trust themselves, congratulations you’re a Trusted Advisor.
  • Asks for advice. Sometimes, a prospect will ask you a question outside of the scope of your product. That’s a great sign!
  • Provides referrals. If the prospect introduces the salesperson to other potential prospects, you’ve earned trust and established rapport.
  • Tells the truth. Prospects are notorious for lying and being guarded, but when a certain degree of rapport is established, they become more open and honest.  Just be prepared! Open and honest could mean a “no” and that’s OK.
  • Does what they say they are going to do. When prospects keep their commitments—meetings, introductions, sending information, making decisions —it’s a good sign that rapport exists.

Next post we get into tactics and introduce the five SCALE drivers and how they govern sales rapport.  This post contains excerpts from the Amazon 5 Star-Rated Triangle Selling. Can’t wait? Buy your copy on Amazon today!!

Follow Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey on LinkedIn.

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