Building rapport in face to face settings is easy. We can take note of non-verbal cues, how people are behaving and the general feel to know how to proceed with the conversation. We’ve communicated and sold this way for thousands of years.

But what do we do when we are unable to take our visual cues from the room? How do we know when to speak, pitch our ideas, or lead the conversation? When we are selling on the phone it’s important to pay closer attention to the information we have available. Below are the four main areas to focus on.

Ownership – yep – it’s up to you.

Taking ownership of an online call is about leading your side of the conversation. This may mean asking questions, waiting for the response and going back for clarification. If you are selling, it is about stepping the potential client through the sales steps with confidence and no hesitation while still ensuring that the client is understanding and keeping up with you. 

Leading your side of the conversation will show the client you are confident in what you are doing. This builds massive rapport. Without this leadership the client starts to second guess the value you bring and wonder if you know what you are talking about.

Voice – speak faster…or slower

Over the phone your voice has to do all the heavy lifting. By adjusting the speed and volume that you speak at you can connect with others more quickly. Two great techniques are Matching and Pacing. 

Matching is a simple technique of speaking at the same pace as the person at the other end of the call. If they are slightly faster than the average, you need to speak a little more quickly – as long as you’re still clear. If they are a little slower than normal, reduce the speed at which you speak. If they are quiet or loud, match where they are at for a moment or two and this will help build rapport. 

Pacing. Building on matching, pacing is when you change the speed or volume that you’re speaking at so the other person follows. Match the quiet person and pace them to a normal volume, or match a fast speaking person and pace them to a normal speed. If they follow with you know you have rapport.

If you have matched well and then paced the person on the line you will have strong rapport within a minute or so. Most people will not be aware you are doing this.

Language – stop thinking, guessing and believing.

When people are so focused on your voice the words you use carry extra weight. To have greater influence eliminate non-committal language. For example, when you say, “I think going for Option A will probably be the best solution.’ you leave lots of doubt in the client’s mind. First, you only think Option A is the best as opposed to knowing that it is. Second, the use of the term probably implies that you are not convinced that it is the best solution. It implies that your solution may not work. If the customer is on the fence as to whether to buy from you or not, this non-committal language will not entice them to take action. 

We use non-committal language as we don’t want to seem pushy. But it’s not pushy to state what you know, it’s what leaders do.


Beyond the obvious, listening is an important part of building rapport. First, it gives the person speaking to you a chance to answer the questions you have asked. Second, it gives them the psychological feeling that you have listened to them. Without this, people risk feeling ignored and this kills rapport.

Listening also ensures that you don’t speak over the other person. If both people are speaking at the same time, no one is listening and rapport is being broken. When we listen we reduce the assumptions we need to make. As an expert it is easy to fall into the world of assuming that you know the solution before you’ve been told the full problem. While you might be right, you might also be wrong. 

But even if you are right, if the caller hasn’t had the opportunity to explain their situation they will disregard your solution. After all, would you follow the advice of a doctor who did not listen to your description of the symptoms?

Pausing is a great way to allow for processing time for what you have said. If you identify new ideas for the caller, don’t assume that they will have an instate grasp of what you are speaking about. Pausing for a moment will enable them to catch up with your thinking, process what they have heard and seek clarification if needed.


I love talking all things #behaviouralscience. People who engage me often start by reaching out to discuss issues they have with their teams and how they can increase their #influence and ability to #lead.

If this is you, please feel free to send me a direct message or email me at More than happy to have a chat on the phone or coffee next time I’m in your town 🙂