TALKING SALES 16: "Can rapport damage a business relationship" - Susan Donovan

John Smibert


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



Your Invitation: I invite you to join the Sales Leader Forum group on LinkedIn where you can experience informative discussions with your peers and sales thought leaders on subjects like the one we have discussed here. I also invite you to subscribe to the

   - Sales Leader Resource Centre here

   - Sales Leader YouTube channel here (300+ sales leadership videos)

Please Share: If you valued this article, please share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions. So feel free to add a comment on this post - I promise to respond. If inclined please follow my LinkedIn post page here.

Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

Your B2B Sales Library

Need resources to help you sell or manage more effectively?

Ever wished you could find a wide range of B2B sales Resources in one library?

Check out the library here

It's packed with articles, videos, keynote speeches, Tools, templates, training materials, eBooks and eGuides.‚Äč

Subscribe to the Library Here


European Peer Group Chair Wanted

We have a number of new enquiries from sales leaders based in the UK, Europe and South Africa who are looking to join a peer group.

We need a Chair to facilitate this new on-line group. This is a valuable role that will be rewarded.

If interested read "Is a Forum Role for you?" and if the answer is "yes" please Contact Us


A Sales Leader Forum provides you with the opportunity to connect with your peers and create a support network of like-minded individuals to learn how they have dealt with the same challenges, issues and problems that you’re facing.



1000's of sales articles, videos and sales tools.  Sales leaders and their teams can access most of it free - simply subscribe.

This site brings you some of the latest expert thought leadership content on business to business (B2B) sales from specialists, sales leaders and sales professionals.