TALKING SALES 16: “Can rapport damage a business relationship” – Susan Donovan




Susan DonovanIn this 3 minute interview Susan Donovan explains to John Smibert why building the wrong kind of rapport can damage a relationship.

She discusses the different types of rapport – the types that work – and the types that don’t. She explains how to focuss on building lasting business rapport by taking risks and challenging the customers thinking.

Susan is a specialist in high-level micro-skills for salespeople, she’s an author and a leading sales trainer.


See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here

Interview Transcript

John: Hello, welcome back! I’ve got with me Susan Donovan, lady of paradoxes. Susan is a specialist in high-level micro-skills for salespeople, she’s an author and a wonderful trainer. Welcome back, Susan!

Susan: Thanks, John!

John: Susan, I’ve read recently something that astounded me. You wrote that building rapport can actually damage relationships.

Susan: Yeah. [laughs]

John: Hey! We teach salespeople that rapport is vital! You’ve got to learn how to build rapport to start the trust-building process.

Susan: That’s right.

John: What do you mean?

Susan: Well, it’s really to do with the types of rapport. There are two types, personal and business if you like.

John: Right.

Susan: And even within those types you could have wide rapport or deep, and even narrow rapport. The kind of rapport I was thinking about that can be damaging is when you have really deep, narrow personal rapport.

John: Okay.

Susan: Where you sort of—you know, you got into this habit with a customer [01:00] where you agree on everything and you have the same view of everything, and then if you sort of start talking about the business then it could feel to the salesperson that they’ve got to be the same, that they’ve got to agree on everything.

John: I think I can relate to that. I remember once when I – I’m a golf fanatic and I met a customer who’s also a golf fanatic, and we really got into the subject of golf like nothing on Earth.

Susan: Yes. [laughs]

John: And yet, I really struggled then to build a business rapport, get respect on a business level. Is that what you’re talking about?

Susan: Yes, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. It’s getting that respect on the business level because you’ll be unwilling to challenge the customer where you have a different perspective, and even bring information that could be disruptive to the way that they see things and be willing to do that and build that stronger business rapport and not necessarily always being comfortable.

John: So that’s what you mean by a wider rapport.

Susan: Yes.

John: You actually stretch the business discussion by putting yourself at risk and really, in terms of rapport. Because now I’m going to step outside and challenge you, [02:00] Mr. Customer.

Susan: Yeah, exactly right.

John: Okay. And the net result?

Susan: Well, you end up with stronger rapport, because once you’ve proven yourself that you’re willing to take a risk—because trust or rapport is actually proportional to risk as well. You risk that, but you end up with stronger rapport at the end.

John: I get what you mean and it’s great advice. So, in summary: be very careful not to build too much of a deep rapport on a personal level, and look for building business rapport – and, again, not too deep – a broad business rapport that helps you build respect and grow trust.

Susan: That’s right, exactly right.

John: Great advice, Susan – thank you very much for your time!

Susan: Thanks, John!

John: I look forward to the next time we talk!

Susan: Thank you!


See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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