For Successful Selling, Which is More Important – Credibility or Rapport?

The age old sales tip goes – in the first five minutes tell them something they don’t know and ask them a question that gets them to think. There’s something in that. After all you want the prospect to be thinking:

  • Here’s someone who knows his stuff, and
  • Here’s someone who wants to understand me and my business better

Credibility is more about ‘what you know’ and rapport is more about the ‘how you’re connecting’. You’re unlikely to get the work with just credibility – lots of others probably know what you know. But without credibility you’re not at the table.

Rapport becomes the key differentiator. A client will choose someone who they think is on their wavelength. Someone who they think understands and shares their values and beliefs – someone who cares.

How do you get credibility? Research and planning help a lot. Try to go to BD meetings with five key things to talk about and ask insightful questions. Three things might be about their market. You might have something to talk about relevant just for the organisation. You might have something just for them (reporting, budgeting etc). This planning and research gives you both knowledge and confidence. Credibility is more about body language than you might think. It helps to have a quieter more authoritative voice. It helps to be comfortable with pauses.

How do you build rapport? It helps if you transmit on their frequency. Be at their energy level. Use their language patterns. If they use short, sharp sentences and talk about taking decisions, do the same. Smile. Be empathetic. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Be open – this will encourage them to share more with you.

So which is more important? It was obviously a trick question – they’re both important!

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