NLP Rapport: The Key To Sales and Selling (Validated by Research)

Every sales person knows how important good communication and trust is in building business relationships. But have you ever thought about what it takes to build instant rapport with anyone?


One time I was on a business trip, and due to a series of events I had to get a hotel room with no reservation. I called several brand name hotels only to be told they were booked. But I went to one of the hotels I had called and used some specific techniques to build rapport with the woman at the front desk.


As we talked, I matched and mirrored her tone of voice and the speed in which she spoke. Almost immediately I established rapport. She told me “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get you a room.” Even though I had been told earlier the hotel was overbooked, I ended up getting a room.


Most communication occurs outside our conscious awareness. Tone of voice accounts for 38 percent of communication and, in face-to-face contacts, physiology accounts for an amazing 55 percent. Only 7 percent of communication is made up of the words we use.


One of the best ways to build good communication beyond our words is called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is a behavioral technology – a set of guiding principles, attitudes and techniques – that allows sales professionals to build rapport and trust, the basis for all business relationships. If you are unclear as to the importance of trust, I highly recommend the book The Speed of Trust by Covey. This will help you to understand the power of trust and the downside to lack of trust. Rapport is a vital key in establishing trust, and NLP teaches the clearest approach to establishing rapport.


The benefit of NLP training in business and sales has been well documented in various peer reviewed journals and studies. For instance, a 2006 study (The Sociolinguistic Basis of Managing Rapport When Overcoming Buying Objections, 2006, by Kim Sydow Campbell and Lenita Davis) validated that NLP-based rapport increases trust specifically in sales. Another study by Wood (2006) titled NLP Revisited: Nonverbal Communications And Signals Of Trustworthiness, looked at the link between NLP Rapport and Trust. (Click here for the link.)


As a certified master trainer of NLP trained by Richard Bandler in the 1980s, I have come to appreciate NLP as one of the most thorough and concise approaches for working with the unconscious mind – and consciously choosing behaviors that bring success.


The NLP sales model, designed to help sales professionals build rapport instantly with anyone, is based on the following five-step process:


  1. Establish Rapport: Remember, people who are like each other tend to like each other. Match and mirror the physiology, tone of voice, representational systems, breathing and key words of the person with whom you are communicating.
  2. Ask Questions: The questions you ask should be directly related to the business of the person you are interviewing. Speak the language of their business and ask questions that help you discover the client’s motivation, decision and reassurance strategies.
  3. Find a Need: When you discover a need, you can establish a value. Propose a solution to the client’s problem, and then ask “do you see any value in this?” If there is no need, stop there and find another client.
  4. Link Need or Value to Your Product/Service: Make a clear proposal for how your product or service helps solve the problem you uncovered earlier, without disclosing too many details.
  5. Close: There are many ways of closing the deal. Just remember that there are really only four objections: I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, it won’t work for me, I don’t believe you. Resistance to your message indicates a lack of rapport. If that happens at any point, it is time to build more rapport.


The benefits of NLP go far beyond sales to help people grow from every single experience, achieve the results they desire and create a better quality of life. When it comes to sales, though, there is no better method to build rapport for business relationships.


We teach the 5-Step Sales Process outlined above in our workshops and NLP Trainings. Additionally, we have a CD set that is a recording of a live training where the process was taught. If you are interested, you may go to and follow the links for product or simply email our office at


Mahalo, Matt James