100 Top Tips for Businesses – #16 Building rapport, it’s not what you say…


According to ‘professional networker’ Tony Bowler, ‘the way that you say it’ is equally, if not more important.

‘Networking is my full-time role,” said Tony, Founder of The Business Culture Hull, one of the city’s biggest and most active business groups.

“And one thing I observe, time and time again, is the opportunities people miss out on because they get the emphasis wrong, or their body language is saying something different from what’s coming out of their mouths.”

Tony believes that rapport-building is a powerful art, and the single biggest thing business owners can build into their networking activities.

“The first 10 seconds, when you meet someone for the first time, are critical,” he said.

“In those 10 seconds, your focus needs to be on getting on the same page as that person.

“And that time really isn’t about showcasing yourself, or projecting what you do – it’s about modelling the other person’s language and behaviours and meeting them on a level.”

In Tony’s view, if someone fails to read their environment and act accordingly, they can be the best at what they do but will still dissolve any potential of a future business collaboration because of a slip of the tongue or rubbing their audience’s backs up.

“The other important aspect of this is not judging,” continued Tony.

“Whether someone is young, female, scruffily-dressed or whatever, people should avoid giving in to pre-conceived ideas because everyone’s unique and the most lucrative and long-lasting business arrangements can emerge from the unlikeliest of places.

“It’s important to give people a chance to unfold and reveal more to you about who they really are and what they have to offer.”

So, if rapport is important, how do you build it? Here are a few hints and tips from Tony, and he should know:

  1. Strive to build positive energy wherever you are. No matter what sort of day you’re having, you’ll be amazed what an impact being positive has on how it goes. It’s also true that people are attracted to positivity and repelled by negativity, so taking a glass-half-empty approach will do you no good at all when it comes to building new business relationships.
  2. Whatever you’re doing, take the time to give the other people involved your full attention, whether you’re in a meeting or a one-to-one situation. You won’t get the best out of either if you’re fiddling with your phone or looking around you when others are speaking, and it will send out a very negative vibe that sticks to boot.
  3. Genuinely listen. Sounds simple, but it’s a real skill and you can demonstrate that you’re fully focused on the other person by making eye contact and asking them questions as they speak. This will make that person feel that you genuinely care and that will make all the difference to how they behave towards you in the future.
  4. Be aware of what your body is doing. Sit up straight, use your hands and be animated and enthusiastic, and if you’re talking directly to someone in either a group or individual situation, mirror their body language and make sure you’re physically on a level with them, and if they sit down join them. Body talk like this is really vital for building empathy.
  5. Choose your words carefully and try to avoid negative or self-deprecating language full or words like ‘cant’, ‘won’t’ and ‘don’t’. People warm to others who are strong, self-assured and uplifting in their outlook and projecting those qualities can be as simple as pausing for a second before you come out with your usual whinge about the weather, and emphasising why you’re grateful for the odd frosty morning instead.
  6. Find common ground. Most of us share some form of interest with most people, and finding those nuggets in any conversation can prove powerful. It doesn’t mean you have to go on ad infinitum about your favourite hobby (be wary of doing that too), but recognising a shared love of football, country walking, motorsport of whatever it may be, can help you get to know someone 10 times faster than you otherwise would.
  7. Keep it all about them. Of course, you need to introduce yourself, but make that snappy because probably the most off-putting thing of all is having to listen to someone talk about themselves incessantly for half an hour. Yet this is a trap many people fall into, sometimes due to nervousness and the natural human desire to avoid silences in conversations. However, it’s best to keep your personal pitch as brief as you can, and then concentrate on listening to what the other person has to say and discussing genuinely useful areas of common ground.

Established in 2016, The Business Culture Hull now has 130 members and is focused on providing companies with a platform to build genuine relationships, with memorable and informative monthly events in settings that blend culture with business as the name suggests. When not organising or running events, Tony spends his time networking and putting people in touch with likeminded individuals for fruitful business collaborations.

For more information about The Business Culture Hull, visit the website here, or give Tony a call on 07590 643337.

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