Sales mirroring tips to quickly build rapport with prospects

Author: Nga Nguyen

Author: Nga Nguyen

Founder of PortaIstack. I come from a background in business consulting and technology delivery. Over the years, I've accumulated a collection of learnings from unforced errors big corporates make - I now want to use these learnings to help small businesses launch and scale up.

Selling is not easy – at least it’s not something that comes naturally to me. When meeting new prospects for the first time, there’s always that sense of pressure to quickly establish rapport and trust. It’s always a good idea to just be yourself, but is there a method you can use to frame your communication style to help your likeability factor? Yes, and it’s called sales mirroring.

What the heck is sales mirroring?

It’s where you subtly mimic the behaviour of your prospects by first reading their emotions and body language and then adapting your communication and behaviour accordingly. Sounds simple? Truthfully, it’s another one of those ‘easy to understand, but incredibly difficult to master’.

The simple psychology of sales mirroring

Now, I’m no expert in psychology so it won’t be a reach for me to dumb this down. Sales mirroring is rooted in the psychological principle of rapport building. When we observe that someone is performing similar behavioural habits, we intrinsically fire up our mirror neurons – the part of our brain responsible for empathy.

Sales mirroring is great for breaking the “transactional” sales rep mould

Rightly or wrongly, I have my natural biases towards salespeople. More often than not, when meeting a sales rep for the first time, my starting position is always with a healthy dose of scepticism – translation: my bull$hit radar is always on high alert.

Ok, I admit my perception of sales reps (in general) is not flash and that’s because the ones I meet typically fit your classical mould of being fast-talking, pushy and transactional. That said, it’s very refreshing when I do meet a sales rep that comes across as thoughtful, as opposed to being a robot just going through the sales motion on autopilot (no personalization, scripted).

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Top sales mirroring techniques

So, let’s jump into the top sales mirroring techniques you can try during your next prospect meeting.

Tip # 1 - Repeat the last few words.

Repeating the last few words of your prospect’s sentence can be a powerful tool when used effectively. This technique shows that you are actively listening and encourages your prospect to continue talking (so you can gather more information). It’s a simple yet impactful technique that can help establish rapport and provide valuable insights from your prospects.

When using this technique, it’s helpful to zoom in on trigger words or phrases that are likely to lead to further conversation. For example:

  • Emotive words such as frustrated, excited, concerned, happy, sad, nervous, curious, disappointed etc
  • Behaviour-focused phrases such as “I need to”, “I want to”, or “I plan to”
  • Objection signals such as “I’m concerned about…”, “I don’t think that…”, “I’m not convinced…”

Tip # 2 - Match tone and pace of voice.

We all have different speaking styles. Some speak slowly and deliberately, while others speak quickly and passionately. Adapting your speaking style to match your prospect’s pace, pitch, and intonation can put them at ease and create a smoother conversation flow. Also, listening to a person’s tone of voice can provide insight into their emotional state, attitude, and level of confidence.

There are, however, scenarios where it may not make sense to use this technique, for example:

  • When energy injection is needed: In some cases, it may be helpful to inject some energy and enthusiasm into the conversation if your prospect is speaking slowly or in a monotone voice. This can help create a more engaging and dynamic interaction.
  • When you need to de-escalate: If your prospect is speaking in an aggressive or confrontational tone, suffice to say, it’s never a good idea to match their tone. Instead, it may be more effective to remain calm and composed and to use active listening techniques to defuse the tension.

Tip # 3 - If possible, find your prospect's one obsession.

sales mirroring one obsession

If you happen to discover something your prospect is really passionate about AND it happens to be on a topic you’re familiar with, then lean into it. This is your chance to build a connection over shared interests.

In most cases, this sort of information is not going to just land on your lap. Here are some ways to discover it:

  • Social media stalking: Take a peek at their social media profiles to get a sense of their interests and hobbies. You might find out that they’re into photography, sci-fi movies, cooking, skydiving etc.
  • Ask open-ended questions: During your conversation, ask open-ended questions that allow your prospect to talk about themselves and their interests. You could ask about their favorite vacation spot, or what they like to do in their free time.
  • Look for clues: If you’re meeting with your prospect in person at their location, take a look around to see if there are any clues about their interests. Do they have a guitar in the corner? Maybe they’re into music. A bookshelf full of books on a particular topic? This could be a clue that they’re passionate about that subject.

Observing your prospect’s body language and general mannerisms can provide clues about their mood, personality, and intentions. This can include things like micro-expressions (brief facial expressions), posture, gestures and eye contact.

Paying attention to a prospect’s choice of words can reveal insights such as their education, interests, and attitudes. This can include things like slang, jargon, and technical terms.

sales mirroring high energy

If your prospect is naturally energetic and enthusiastic (your larger-than-life characters), try matching their energy level to create a sense of excitement and engagement. Conversely, if they appear subdued or reserved, adjust your own energy level to create a sense of calm and understanding.

Sales mirroring can be difficult to master, as there is a fine line between being subtle and overstepping, which can make you appear insincere, or in the worst case, manipulative. If your prospect appears uncomfortable in any way with your mirroring attempts, abort and try a different approach. Remember, the goal is to build rapport and trust, so if all else fails, just be yourself.

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