What is Rapport Building? - Definition & Importance

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  • 0:04 Background on Rapport Building
  • 2:51 Importance of Rapport
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Allison Tanner
Expert Contributor
Steven Scalia

Steven completed a Graduate Degree is Chartered Accountancy at Concordia University. He has performed as Teacher's Assistant and Assistant Lecturer in University.

This lesson will explain what it means to build rapport. It will also describe the importance of rapport building with customers and in the workplace.

Rapport Building

Jean has just started her sales career with Tech Solutions, and she's in trouble. She doesn't seem to connect with clients, she struggles to set meetings, and she can't seem to close deals and make a sale. Just as Jean is ready to give up and start a new career, Rapport Man (R.M.) flies in and pays her a visit.

R.M. tells Jean that she isn't a bad sales person, she just needs to learn how to build rapport. He explains that rapport refers to a relationship where there is mutual trust and understanding that all parties involved have the another's best interests in mind. Rapport building is the process of creating rapport and building trusting relationships between two or more people.

To help Jean better understand, R.M. draws a small diagram to show her where two people can build rapport with one another. First, he draws two overlapping circles and he labels the first circle 'you.' On the second label he writes 'others' and in the overlap he writes 'rapport.'

He explains that the first circle represents Jean and her interests. The second circle represents customers and their interest. If Jean only focuses on her circle she will seem selfish, and if Jean only focuses on meeting the interests in customers circle, she may seem desperate or untrustworthy. R.M. tells Jean to imagine she is a customer and the salesperson is overly eager to meet her needs. She might begin to think they are up to something or lying. On the other hand, if the salesperson is only talking about why they love the product and how they want to sell it, Jean will likely feel like they're cold and not interested in her needs.

Now, pointing to the overlapping area, R.M. says that he likes to call this the zone of rapport. This is the area where interests, common ground, and ability to exhibit empathy allow you to develop rapport. Connecting with someone in this area can help you quickly establish the characteristics of good rapport. For example, if the same salesperson identifies why the product meets your needs and theirs, then you are more likely to trust them. This is how you can build rapport. The connection between the two people is very important.

R.M tells Jean that some people are able to build rapport very quickly. These individuals have a unique ability to connect with others and immediately identify mutual interests. For others, it takes some time. However, some key characteristics of building good rapport include:

  • The ability to identify common ground that both parties can agree on
  • Using body language that indicates trust and understanding
  • Indicating active listening by asking the right questions and acknowledging what the person has said
  • Having empathy for the other person and their experiences

R.M. goes on to say that these characteristics of rapport are evident in a person's ability to connect with an individual.

Importance of Rapport

R.M. goes on to tell Jean that not building rapport is problematic because it can leave customers feeling uneasy, untrusting, and as if the company or salesperson does not have their best interest in mind. This will prevent sales and damage long-term success with customers.

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Additional Activities

Rapport Building - a Business Case:

The following business case will enable you to apply your knowledge of Rapport Building in a real-life business context and to realize the impact that Rapport Building can have on the success (or failure) of a business.

You are the sales manager at Newgo, a company that makes cosmetic products. You recently hired a new regional sales director who you were particularly fond of, John. John's role as the regional sales director is to close agreements with top wholesale distributors in key states in order to maximize the availability of Newgo products to consumers. Although John did not have any experience in sales, his knowledge of the cosmetic industry is unparalleled due to his 20 years spent leading the marketing department of your top competitor. Since marketing seems to be related to sales, you decided to hire him.

Six months later, when reviewing sales results, you find that John's region went from being ranked first in the country to last in terms of current year sales. Shocked, you decide to tag along to John's next sales meeting to see first hand how come John is not closing more sales.

You take the following notes during this meeting:

  • John refused to shake the distributor's hand because he "did not appreciate" the representative's tactics to negotiate prices in their previous meeting.
  • John constantly interrupted the representative when talking because "he wasn't getting to the point."
  • John would often say that the sides were miles apart from any sort of agreement.


Write in a short essay format (minimum 100 words), the errors in John's rapport-building techniques, and how John can change his client relationships by using proper Rapport Building techniques.

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