In any new relationship, especially one in a business setting, the quicker you build rapport, the better your prospects of success. But how do you build rapport to ensure influence?
Take the video lesson below to find out. And remember to take the quiz at the end of the lesson.
This lesson is in an interactive format.
Please note: As this lesson has audio, we request you to plug in your headphones or to turn up the volume on your computer/ laptop.
Finance Advisor: Kapil Sethi
Kapil:(Raises eyebrows, leans forward, gestures towards Mona with open palm) “Can I get you some tea/coffee?”
Mona: (Slight Smile; raises eyebrows, leans forward a bit too, and gestures back with an open palm) “Would you care to join me?”
Kapil:(With a slight polite smile; leans back into his chair? ) “No, I’m not into tea or coffee at all. But please, don’t let that stop you. What will you have?”
Mona:(Smiles and leans back into his chair as well) “Nothing, thanks. I’m good too. I had a quick snack on the way here.”
Kapil: “Alright then. So… Mona, I understand you have a financial advisory proposition for me.
Mona: (Realises the client likes to get straight to the point. Straightens up, but does not lean forward, and presents with measured enthusiasm) “Yes, Mr. Sethi. At E-Wealth, our experience with clients, has led us to believe that people aren’t knowledgeable about aspects of financial management, or they operate under obsolete paradigms or they just don’t have the time to…”
Kapil:(Interrupts. Arms and feet still crossed, still leaning back. Neutral expression) “And you surmise I fall under one of those categories.”
Mona: (Leans back a little, places hands facing downwards on the desk) “I wouldn’t dare, Mr. Sethi. All I was trying to say was that wealth management doesn’t get its due consideration in most people’s lives. And in the long term, that costs them dearly. With you, I’m just keen to understand how you view and manage personal finances. And if there was anything at all we could do to leverage our expertise to your benefit.”
Kapil: (Un crosses her arms, leans forward just a bit, feet still crossed) “Interesting. What kind of benefits are you talking about?”
Mona:(lifts his hands off the table and presents with measured enthusiasm. No smile.) “That depends, really. I’d need to first understand your financial goals and plans, before suggesting the best way to achieve them, or pointing out resulting benefits.”
Kapil: (Throws up her hands, Crosses her arms again, leans back, feet still crossed. Looks Mona in the eye.) “That sounds time consuming. See Mona – I don’t have a lot of time at the moment, and I’ve met many others just like you – so forgive me for being blunt. So let’s get to the point – what financial product are you pitching today?”
Mona: (Nods understandingly. Neutral expression. Meets Kapil’s gaze) “I can appreciate that. You’re busy and don’t have a lot of time at the moment. Mr. Sethi. I also get the sense that your experiences with financial advisors in general have left you somewhat sceptical. May I ask what about those experiences put you off?”
Kapil: (Rests back in his easy chair, crosses his arms and feet) “Never mind. So, what are you going to suggest or recommend to me? What schemes and plans are you going to ask me to sign up with?”
Mona: “None, Mr. Sethi.” (Now, leans away into her chair too)
Kapil: (Sits up, looking surprised) Excuse me?
Mona: (sits upright) “Not unless I know more about you and ascertain your needs, Mr. Sethi”
Kapil: (Still surprised. Eyebrows up, sitting straight?) “Now, that’s new?” (leans forward and places his forearms on the desk. Thinks for a second and Smiles) “Please, call me Kapil (Could Mona address him as Mr Sethi in the preceding dialogue then?).”
Mona: (Smiles.) “Thanks, Kapil. Yeah, so as I was saying, I’d be very keen to understand how you view your finances, and what you seek to achieve over the next few years, before I start to recommend anything.
Kapil: (Raises an eyebrow, slows down rate of speech and tone) “Really? And what if you find nothing to recommend based on what you learn of my approach to finances?
Mona: (mirrors Kapil, and slows down speech) Yes. That’s happened before. It’s very rare, but I have met individuals who are quite astute with their finances. It makes no sense recommending anything in such cases. Else both customers and companies lose.”
Kapil: (shakes his head from side to side) “That’s reassuring. But I’m still wary. The whole financial consulting bit feels like an exercise in giving up control over my own finances.
Mona: (Looks Kapil in the eye) “I hear what you’re saying. You’re telling me you’re wary because it feels like you’re giving up control over your own finances. That’s perfectly understandable.
Kapil: (gets mildly agitated, and fixates Mona with a stare) I have heard stories where investors trusted crooked advisors who used all that hard earned money to meet their own internal targets and earn commissions, only to abandon the poor investors later. Everyone who came here before you opened the conversation by pitching some random IPO or Mutual Fund Scheme. Based on what? I certainly didn’t know. Any questions I asked were skilfully deflected”
Mona: (Shakes her head from side to side, matching Kapil’s energy) “I don’t deny what you’re saying, Kapil. Crooked advisors like the kind you described have not only given this line of work a bad name, they have also made my job more difficult in this aspect.”
Kapil: (Makes an emphatic speech, using hand gestures) Everybody is gung-ho about making the sale, nobody cares about customer service afterwards. I have so many people coming in here trying to get me to part with my own money. Once that happens, I’ll have to beg the same people to come back and help me with issues that are bound to crop up. My experience with ‘service’ providers has left me very cautious when my own money is at stake…I don’t want to add to the frustration and despair I already.”
Mona: (Looks Kapil in the eye) “I know how you feel. You’re saying you’re worried and dismayed about post-sales customer service because of your experience with service providers. Double so, because now it’s your own money at stake.
(Makes an emphatic point using hand gestures)
“So I’ll say only this. If at any point during this meeting, you feel you’re being pushed into something you don’t feel is 100% financially right for you and your world, call it out and I’ll leave. Right then.
(Pauses for a second)
Once we’re done here, if there is a need for my firms intervention, and you do decide to go ahead with us, I’ll have you know I’ll be with you right through. (Smiles and presents a document)
Here are our testimonials. You’ll see that if our customers beg, it’s only to differ with our competitors on their value propositions.
Lessons from the Video
In this situation, considering the fact that the customer had been reluctant to meet with Mona in the first place and seemed disinterested and even hostile towards her, the onus was on Mona to influence him to first listen to her, before she could influence the sale.
Did you notice how Mona achieved this? For our learning benefit, we’ll break that conversation down into three parts
Observe Mona closely.
When Kapil leans back, she does too, but does so subtly so as to not make it too noticeable. Kapil leaning back in his chair with crossed arms could indicate that he needs his space to reflect on whatever is happening. Mona respects that and leans back too to give Kapil his space.
She also takes cues from Kapil’s mannerisms and energy levels. When his curiosity is piqued, he automatically raises his eyebrows symbolizing interest or excitement. Mona also raises her eyebrows with deliberation and matches Kapil’s energy levels.
Notice now that when Kapil leans forward, signifying interest in what is being discussed, Mona leans forward too, indicating she is as keen in participating in the conversation as Kapil is.
Kapil starts to smile, indicating he is beginning to get comfortable with the conversation. Mona notices this and smiles back at him too.
Mona was – very subtly – mimicking Kapil’s body language, facial expressions and energy levels. But why? And what does her conduct have to do with building rapport and influence? anyway?
As it turns out, a lot!
Mirroring to Exert Social Influence
Mona was using a tool popularly called ‘mirroring’, though the scientific term for it is ‘limbic synchrony’. Mirroring starts by observing a person’s body posture, gestures, facial expressions and energy levels and then subtly letting your own body reflecting the other person’s body language.
Mirroring a person – subtly that is -makes them feel – and this happens at a subconscious, not a conscious level – that there is something about you – a vibe – that they like. Because they will see in you their own reflection, as someone who is just like them.
This tendency to respond positively to someone who is ‘like us’ is hardwired into the human brain. It’s normally an unconscious process, but one that can be deliberately triggered through mirroring.
However, never mirror other person’s negative body language, as you will just give off a rather negative vibe.
Also, the operational word here is ‘subtle’. Being too conspicuous will give the other person the impression that you’re aping them, and that has just the opposite effect to rapport building.
An *effective way to build rapport (or to increase a person’s comfort when they are resistant) is to utilise mirroring. When done skillfully, mirroring can be an important part of building rapport. Rapport, in turn, is a crucial part in exerting social influence.