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ATD Blog

20 Questions Virtual Sellers Can Use to Build Rapport

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

People like people who listen to them.

In fact, one of the four principles of rapport is empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If you want to understand another person, have them talk about themselves and demonstrate that you’re listening.

Relationships are straightforward. You can cultivate strong ones by asking appropriate questions, listening actively, and showing that you care.

When you convey to people that you’re curious about them and listen to them, they’re more inclined to like you. This goes a long way in building strong relationships and rapport in sales, whether you’re selling virtually or in-person.

The difference with selling virtually is that you have to be much more deliberate and make time for building rapport. It is helpful to have specific questions in mind to accomplish this goal.


20 Questions to Virtually Build Rapport

Here are 20 questions you can use to build rapport in a virtual setting. We’ve also included a subset of questions to use during challenging times such as a global pandemic. These 20 questions are shared in Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely.

In general:

  • What’s going on in your business these days?
  • Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend (last weekend, coming up, and so forth)?
  • It was good to hear the short version of your background in the meeting, but since it’s now just you and me, I’d love to get the long version. What’s your story?
  • You mentioned you want to retire in a few years. What are you thinking of doing then?
  • What’s a habit of yours that you want to develop or change? (Sometimes it’s good to set the tone here with, “I haven’t played the piano in 20 years, so right now I’m trying to practice piano every day for 20 minutes.”)
  • Many people don’t know that I’m a competitive sailor, and three of my kids are too. What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
  • Where do you live? What do you love about it?
  • Your company seems like a great place to work. What do you think makes it special?
  • It was great to talk today, and I’m glad to be here. But it’s 4 p.m., this is my last meeting, and I’m also looking forward to . . . reading X, cooking Y, watching Z, playing a game of A, taking a ride to visit B . . . How about you?
  • I noticed something interesting on your website about your company doing community work. Can you tell me more?

When times are challenging:

  • How have you and your clients been affected since the ?
  • Given how everything has changed because , what’s one habit of yours that you’ve changed?
  • What’s something you miss that has surprised you?
  • Is there anything for you, given the changes in that turned out better than you expected?
  • How are you taking care of yourself these days? Is there anything you want to change?
  • How are your friends and family doing?
  • It surprises me how many acts of generosity I’ve been seeing. What have you seen?
  • What are you optimistic about? Anything positive happening in your business right now?
  • When everything turns around, what are you looking forward to?
  • How do you think this is all going to pan out?

The Power of the Follow-Up Question

You can power-boost your rapport building efforts and demonstrating you’re listening by asking follow-up questions. Show your curiosity in what the buyer is talking about.
But don’t fake it.

If the buyer is really into sailing, and you’ve never been on a boat, don’t pretend otherwise. You can let them know, “That’s really interesting. I’ve never been sailing but have always admired the sails out on the water.” Or, “Good for you, you must be very brave. I’m terrified of boats.”

While empathy is one of the principles of rapport, so is authenticity. You must be yourself—otherwise all rapport-building efforts will come across as contrived and they’ll do more damage to your relationships than good.

About the Author

Dave Shaby joined RAIN Group as a member of the executive team after 25 years in leadership positions in the greater Boston area, with the past 19 years as an executive team member at Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a renowned publicly-traded company in the education and dependent care benefits sector.

At Bright Horizons, as the senior VP of marketing, and later senior VP of emerging growth, he led the marketing strategy, major company initiatives, and a team of nearly 100 growth team staff that drove over a billion dollars in revenue. In addition, Dave initiated the development and delivery of sales and growth training for thousands of employees that improved company win rates and marketing ROI. His work also included the launch of a dedicated team that produced tens of millions in additional value through acceleration of new business units. In addition, he collaborated with and advised large numbers of clients in all sectors to drive their benefits utilization and increase account growth and retention.

Dave has been an acclaimed adjunct faculty member at both Babson College and Brandeis University, where he develops and delivers digital marketing courses for MBA students at the International Business School.

Dave has served on several boards, including Westwood Education Foundation, The Boston Children’s Museum, and The Bright Horizons Foundation for Children. He also works with and mentors several emerging companies to enhance their growth. In his spare time, David enjoys time with his family, sports, and travel.

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