Sell Without “Selling” – Part II

Enrollment, Part II – Creating Rapport

In January, I started a series on the art of enrollment.  I defined enrollment as a way of supporting another person by offering a product, a service, or simply a solution; as a way of being with another person that inspires them to move forward with something they want by using something you have.  Enrollment is a way to communicate with others so that they want to work with you.  (As always, I am indebted to Source Point Training Co. for introducing me to this concept.)

To recap, in Part I, I noted that while enrollment is similar to selling, it is not the same thing.   I stated that enrollment is an important tool for attorneys and other professionals and can be utilized for many purposes:  to bring in new clients or customers, to have employees want to perform your work/their work, and to make sure that your partners and business associates are on the same page with you, just to name a few.  To get up to speed before reading this second installment on the topic, you may wish to review part I of this series, which you can find on my blog.

In part one, I presented the following model of enrollment:


R apport  – Create rapport, build trust.E ngage — Be   genuinely interested and focused on the other person.

A sk — Ask   questions to clarify the other person’s desired outcomes.

L isten – Listen   closely for what is important to him or her.

I nternalize   – Understand the other person and what she wants and needs before you explain   what you have.  Be sure what you are   offering fits the need.

T each – Show   the other person that what you are offering will lead to the outcome they desire.

Y   es! – Gain commitment and action.

This month, I will talk about the first major piece of this process, gaining RAPPORT.

Before we do this, it is important to be clear in your own mind on the result you want to generate before going into an enrollment conversation.  In other words, before working to consciously enroll someone in something, you must ask yourself “what do I want to enroll him in?”  For a simple example, imagine you are driving home from work on a Friday night, and thinking, we have not gone to that sushi place in awhile and imagining how enjoyable it would be to go there tonight with your family.  If you walk in the door intent on enrolling them in going to the sushi place, and you are not able to, you might miss the opportunity go out to dinner with them at all.  As such, the best way to approach the conversation is, as you are driving home ask yourself, do I really want to go to the sushi place no matter what, or do I just want to go out to dinner with my family?  If the answer is “sushi,” this is what you will work to enroll your family in.  If, however, you realize you’d like sushi, but the real goal for you is to go out to dinner with them, then this is what you set your enrollment sights on.  Always be clear what you want to enroll the other person in.

Now back to REALITY.  Let me note at the outset that enrollment is not a linear process.  While you will always want to start with gaining rapport, and always be engaged with the other person, listening and asking questions, you may find times that you are out of rapport and you will then need to circle back and create rapport again.


Rapport is foundational to enrollment.  If you do not have rapport, you are not going to enroll anyone into anything.

So we should start with the question, how do you know if you have rapport with another person?  Or even earlier to the discussion, what is rapport?

From Webster’s:  Rapport – “Relationship, esp. one of mutual trust or emotional affinity.”

What does this mean?  We have rapport when we feel a connection with another person and/or a sense of trust with them.  When we look at rapport, particularly for purposes of enrollment, we are asking “Am I in rapport with this person at this particular moment in time?”  You may have a close relationship overall with another person, yet be in or out of rapport at any specific time.

This is why the preliminary question is, “How do you know if you have rapport with someone?”  You will want to stop right now and ask yourself this question.  Common answers are as follows:

  • I feel good, or close to them
  • The conversation feels easy, and flows
  • We are making eye contact
  • We are laughing
  • Body posture is open (arms uncrossed, facing in my direction)

How do you know if you do not have rapport?  Again, think of an example where you did not have rapport.  What did you see, hear or feel at that time?  Common themes are these:

  • I feel disconnected
  • They seem upset
  • We are talking over the top of each other or not talking at all
  • They are not making eye contact with me
  • They have turned away from me
  • They make comments that are sarcastic or rude
  • Body posture is closed (arms crossed, looking or turned away)

What can you do to gain rapport?  Again think about times that you have felt good and like you were in rapport – what did you do to gain rapport?  Think about a time you felt disconnected from another person and you were able to get the conversation back on track.  What did you do?

Rapport is based on commonality.  There are different types of commonality.  When we find commonality, something in our brain says, “yes.”  For example, when I speak to groups, I start by saying, “We are here on a Tuesday morning, at such-and-such place to talk about accountability.”  This gains rapport with them because their brains say “yes – Tuesday morning; yes – such-and-such a place; and yes – we are going to talk about accountability.”  Had I said in July in Sacramento, “and it is snowing outside,” this would break my rapport with them because their brains would immediately trip on that comment and say “no, it is not snowing.”  Then we are out of rapport.

So here are ways to gain rapport through commonality:

1.  Talk about “the weather”.  Isn’t this funny?  I always thought it was non-productive to make small talk.  But when you make small talk that is about things that are common to you both, it creates rapport.  Examples: the weather, sports, books, anything that we agree on.  (In Starbucks, “wow, this line is long/slow.”)

2.  Stand or sit like they are standing or sitting.  This is funny too, I know, but the truth is that this is a very non-obvious way to create rapport.  Their brains will say on a subconscious level, “yes” when you mirror them.  Warning – don’t mimic.  That will be too obvious and break rapport.  But if you walk into a meeting and the person is sitting, don’t stand.  If he is crossing his leg, you cross your leg.  By the way, rapport is created fairly quickly.  Once you feel you have rapport, then you can stop the small talk and sitting like they are.  But come back to it if rapport seems to be broken.

Always pay attention to whether you have rapport or have lost it. Remember those signs from above. If you lose rapport, you must go back and establish it again. Practice this now. Then post on this blog to discuss and/or comment.


And, as always, call me today for a free sample coaching call to experience what other professionals have learned from hiring an executive coach:  “I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable.” – John Russell, Managing Director, Harley-Davidson Europe Ltd.

About the Author

Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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