Active Communication — Building Rapport with Prospects and Clients

Remember that awkward phone call you made to a prospect? They answered and immediately you knew that your personalities differ, and you thought “oh crap, this is going to suck.” Well, if it has not happened to you, you are lying. Calling on a prospect is tough and communicating effectively with a prospect and even your current customers is paramount.

So, today let’s chat about how communication works, where communication breaks down, and how effective communication will drastically improve your rapport building with prospects and clients.

I am sure you have noticed this by now, whether you are a current salesperson or a 10-year old, people communicate differently. Everyone has a different method for how they process the world around them and garner assumptions based on their frame of reference (concepts, values, views, etc). To make things more complicated for salespeople, our potential customers tend to do business with people they like and tend to avoid those that piss them off or rub them the wrong way.

Bonding immediately with a prospect and having the ability to build lasting rapport throughout the Sales System will make selling easier. People who like one another, tend to trust one another. Remember, people tend to do business with people that they like! Sadly, most people are inherently selfish; they want to discuss what is important to them and want to make sure that they are heard, and you understand what they are saying.


For the bonding and rapport to even begin you have to communicate with Active Communication. Interacting with a prospect or customer, so subtly, that they are only aware of feeling familiar with you. When speaking with a prospect, Actively, you will adjust your body language, style of speaking, and cues to mirror those of the prospect. The three elements of communication are verbal, non-verbal, and inflection or tone (quality of sound, pitch, accent). Your non-verbal communication has a more than 50% impact on your prospect. The way that you speak or the style of your speech has a greater impact on the prospect than the actual words you use. For example, you are meeting in person with a Ph.D professor, a subject matter expert, and you are selling them something for their students to use. Your body language (gestures, facial expressions, eye contact), will have a LARGER impact on their impression of you than the fancy, scholarly words you are using, probably incorrectly. Think about this, if you are selling to the same person but, on the phone — your pitch, inflection, and overall demeanor will mean much more than your words. In a nutshell, practice and hone the way you present yourself more than the actual words coming out of your mouth.

Active Communication also involves sharp listening skills. For communication to happen between two people, one person has to say something, and the other has to hear and understand what was said. If there is a breakdown here, it is a lot like talking to my 14-month old son. These listening skills boil down to two different skills:

  1. Restating what the speaker has said
  2. Paraphrasing

During Active Communication, you are merely confirming or correcting your understanding of what was said. This seems silly but, you would be surprised by how many salespeople do not listen to their prospects and customers and end up looking like an idiot, losing a deal before it even started.

Communication Breakdown — Was it something I said?

When the communication breaks down during a prospecting call, demo, sales pitch, etc…it is YOUR fault. The salesperson is in control of the interaction and anytime you lose the control or start to make the prospect or customer feel uneasy you better be ready to bring them back. If you cannot bring them back to a comfortable state, this is a surefire way to kill any rapport you have built.

Remember that awkward prospecting call earlier? That weird feeling in your stomach when you feel nervous about what is happening? Yea that sucks. Do not let your prospects or customers get to that point. To prevent this from happening preserve their comfort level by making sure you always take the sword; protect their contentment in the situation.

Want some free advice for your next sales call with a prospect? Do not do the following:

  1. Rush or pressure the prospect
  2. Talk down to the prospect
  3. Ask intrusive questions (without softening and permission)
  4. Act cocky
  5. Speaking in buzzwords or company jargon

These will immediately make the prospect feel uneasy, so then, communication breaks down, and they shut down. Why? Because people buy from those that they trust. The prospect is now losing trust in you because the situation is uncomfortable and you are the cause of it.

We talked about non-verbal communication a bit earlier. Considering that non-verbal communication has an over 50% impact on a prospect over spoken words, I’d venture to say that it is significantly important to your sales success. What about your prospect’s non-verbal or verbal responses? Maybe your prospect frowns, looks confused, checks their watch, or sits back in their giant, reclining, cherry leather chair and crosses their arms. You did something wrong, my friend. You did not Actively Communicate, and/or you did not preserve their comfort level.

Active Communication = Bonding and Rapport

You may be thinking, Morgon, I figured I was supposed to talk about the weather, sports, my prospects kid in the spelling bee, an article I saw posted on Forbes about my prospect’s organization, etc. Yes, these are all great things to have in your back pocket. However, these will never get to happen if Active Communication is not established from the get go. Plus, how may other salespeople called your prospect today asking “peculiar weather we’re having, ain’t it?

Also, bear in mind that your prospect may have a fear of you being just another salesperson that will waste their time, they might be anxious about what to expect, or worse feel that they will be pressured into buying.

If you are Actively Communicating, you will pick up on the verbal and nonverbal cues from your prospect. Additionally, you will keep them comfortable while your rapport and bonding meter goes upward. We are not all perfect, every call, every day. I get it, believe me, I have been there. If things fall apart, this is where you can further separate yourself from the other goobers calling your prospect that day. BE BETTER! Take their discomfort and put it on you…fall on the sword, after all, this is your fault!

Embrace the struggle for a moment and try to understand what is going on. Use phrases like:

  1. I need your help.
  2. I’m confused.
  3. Are you upset?

Then, start to reel in their discomfort by fixing the issues.

  1. Take responsibility for being the actual or sensed reason for their discomfort
  2. Ask questions as a response to their body language
  3. Restate or paraphrase what the speaker has said that indicate their discomfort

Friends, ensure you are Actively Communicating. People who like one another, tend to trust one another, and people tend to do business with people that they like.

Let’s sell something today,


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