James was one of the hardest working sales reps I've ever had the pleasure of managing. A tall, boisterous guy, he had a voice you could hear a mile away. He was always in the office or knocking on a door trying to put a deal together.

Unfortunately, his numbers weren't as robust as James was. The man worked harder than anybody else at the company yet, at month's end, he was near the bottom of the board. His problem? He wasn't connecting with potential customers. They heard him, alright. Loud and clear. But he wasn't building rapport with them.

SYMPTHY X HARMONY = AGREEMENT Webster's dictionary defines “rapport” as a “sympathetic relationship.” Other definitions given include a state of “harmony” or “agreement.” For our purposes as salespeople, it is the emotional connection you build with your prospect. Rapport begins in that moment when you connect with someone on a level beyond words.

Many people believe that this is a talent you either have or you don't. Not true. We've all experienced rapport in some form or another, though we may not have been aware of it or understood how it works.

You can boost your rapport with another person by using language, tonality, and physical behaviors. James, for instance, just needed a little work in the rapport department, not a complete overhaul. Here are the three areas where he was able to make the biggest improvement. Consider them separately, but employ them in unison: language, tone, physical behavior.

SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE Let's say you and your wife are on vacation in Greece. You're having a great time. But as you wander through Athens, you're not running into a lot of people who speak English. That evening, you're at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant trying to get the waiter to understand your order. From a corner of the room you hear another patron ordering in English with a Midwestern accent. You introduce yourself. Within minutes the two of you are talking like old friends.

If you had run into this guy at the corner gas station back in the U.S. you probably wouldn't have even given him a nod, but here the two of you are in a foreign city, speaking the same language. It puts you completely at ease with each other.

In a sales appointment you can achieve something of a similar effect by using the same words and phrases as the person sitting across from you. If your client is explaining how he or she felt about something and describes the feeling state as “super,” use the exact tone, inflection, and word choice when referencing that state. Listen to the words clients use to describe their problems. Listen to their tone.

Whatever you do, never talk down to the prospect. Similarly, don't try to impress them with fancy words; they're likely to be put off by them. People are more comfortable with those who speak at a level they're used to. The biggest mistake you can make is showing off your vocabulary to someone who doesn't share it. Remember, no matter what you're selling, the prospect is buying from you because they like and trust you, not because you're a human thesaurus.

TUNE IN Enthusiasm is the most important tool in a sales rep's arsenal, but it's possible to clobber somebody over the head with zeal. Matching tonality is every bit as important as speaking their language.