Understanding how people think isn’t just a good sales technique, it also is a great relationship-building skill that helps in all areas of your life!

I’ve already talked about how Internal Representation Systems (IRS) work and how identifying them can help you communicate better on many levels.  This post is focused on identifying the vocabulary clues that reveal the preferred Internal Representation System of the person you are talking to.

One of the objections I often hear about developing rapport is that it is tricky to focus on your prospect’s argument while simultaneously trying to subtly match and mirror aspects of their behaviour, another is that it is impossible to do this when you are talking on the phone since you can’t see the person you are talking to. The exciting thing about using a person’s vocabulary to establish rapport is that it is relatively easy to pick up their preferred Internal Representation System and you can use it in every social situation (except possibly at a noisy party).

What Are the Major Internal Representation Systems?


The Visual person focuses on visual predicates that reflect their visual perception of the world around them.  You’ll hear visual words like:

  • See;
  • Look;
  • Show;
  • Reveal;
  • Illuminate;
  • Foggy;
  • Imagine;
  • Picture;
  • View;
  • Dawn;


The Auditory person focuses on the sounds of words, ideas, and proposals. They use words like:

  • Hear;
  • Listen;
  • Tune in (or out);
  • Ring a bell;
  • Silence;
  • Resonate;
  • Question;
  • Make music;
  • Deaf;
  • Sound;


The Kinaesthetic person is concerned about sensations and movement.  Their vocabulary includes words like:

  • Hard;
  • Catch on;
  • Tap into;
  • Feel;
  • Solid;
  • Grasp;Touch;
  • Throw out;
  • Unfeeling;
  • Make contact;


The Auditory-Digital person engages in a lot of self-talk and internal processing and the vocabulary they use reflects that internal dialogue, with words like:

  • Know;
  • Process;
  • Consider;
  • Decide;
  • Understand;
  • Experience;
  • Learn;
  • Motivate;
  • Change;
  • Perceive;


Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, and you will rarely hear predicates drawn from just one representational system in a conversation that is more than a few minutes long, but if you keep your ears open for the general trends you will know which key words to focus on in your response to a prospect or client and you will find that your close rate improves dramatically.

After all, good sales people are constantly improving their skills, and one of the most vital skills in any sales situation is developing rapport with the other person – otherwise you end up with a high return rate once your prospects have a chance to get away from your overpowering personality.

Before we close, I’d like to remind you that your preferred Internal Representation System is not fixed. It can shift over time and even from day to day, so this is a guide, not a box to place yourself or others into.  During Confident Closing workshops we use a short diagnostic test to help participants identify their preferred Internal Representation System, but we stress the importance of expanding your vocabulary, and becoming more flexible in this area of communication.

Meta Description:  The words you use make up less than 10% of your total communication, yet they are powerful tool in building rapport and understanding the things that matter to your people within minutes of starting a conversation with them.

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Book your complimentary 30-minute Discovery Session with Chandell.

By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


Years ago when I was employed as a sales person, I attended a meeting with a gentleman.  From the moment I walked into the board room of this big corporate organisation, I immediately got the impression that he wasn’t really tuned in to anything I had to say.  As soon as I realised this, I started matching and mirroring his body language.  We were sitting across the board room table from each other and he had his arms resting on the arms of the chair and was tapping his fingers.  I subtly did exactly the same thing at the same rate.  He didn’t pick up on it at all but within 5 minutes he seemed much more responsive and we went on to have a great working relationship that still exists today.  

The value of non-verbal communication is still not fully appreciated in the business world, though many more executives and business people are learning and trusting that body language and simple actions can be the difference between a deal being made or broken.

Selling is really a process, not an action.  The pressure comes when we start to see selling as purely transactional.  This works okay in some situations (at a supermarket for example) – not so well in others (service businesses like hairdressing or coaching – or even choosing an accountant or financial planner).

So the first step in the process is to establish rapport – because mostly people choose to buy from those people whom they like.

Without rapport it’s harder to accomplish everything.  Most people aim to build rapport by uncovering common experiences or finding common ground.  This is fine if you have unlimited time to build rapport, or if you have a guarantee of further meetings, but it’s not so useful in a business context where you may only have a few seconds and no time for chit-chat.  Matching and mirroring (done subtly) is an almost fail-safe way of building rapport in just a few minutes.

Building Rapport

Rapport in communication is made up of three things: words, physiology and tonality and most people think that the words we use are the most important.  The secret is that they are only about 7% of the impact you make. Link to Blog on Building Rapport

Think back to a time you walked into a networking event, or a party, or some other function where you see someone that you don’t know – you have absolutely no idea who they are, you’ve never met them before, and you don’t know why but you get a funny feeling about that person, there’s just something about them that attracts you.  How do we know that we like that person? How do we make that decision? It’s based on the instant decision of your unconscious mind. Link to Blog on Unconscious Mind

Again, this is an example of our unconscious driving our behaviour – so 93% of your decisions about others, and their decisions about you is an unconscious response to tonality and physiology.  That puts tremendous pressure on you – but it also creates amazing opportunity because once you understand it, you can use this skill to create win-win outcomes with people.

What is a win-win outcome?  Well, if you tap into what’s important to another person and can deliver them the service that they’re looking for that’s a great outcome for both of you.  People don’t buy based on your experience or how long you’ve been doing what you’re doing or because your logo has pink and blue as opposed to yellow and green – at the end of the day the buying decision comes down to how it makes them feel.

Since all of this is going on inside our head, part of the art of the confident closer gets down into how you present your information so that your prospect sees the tiny fraction of the information they need to make a buying decision.  It’s ensuring that the key bits of information they need to know about the outcome will get past their filters.  Once you’ve accomplished that, their buying decision is made for them.

The art of influence is not just in the words, it’s not just in the tonality, it’s not just in the things that you choose to show them, it’s about whether you present all this in the way that they want to see it.  A sales pitch that totally convinces one person might not work at all on someone else, because they’re two different people.  The art and the skill of communication lies in the ability to find out what’s important to each particular person, and then give him the information that he desires.  However, you actually have to observe, and focus on the person to do this – you can’t just go through the motions.

Matching and Mirroring to Build Rapport

Suddenly you find all these similarities, because you like each other – you’re in rapport.  You might use the same words a lot of the time, or you might find yourself shaking your foot in the same way or  talking at the same volume, or using the same tone of voice – and all those pieces of information play a role in how much you like each other.   The reason you get along is because your body language is picking up on the fact that you’re actually the same.   So in those 11 million bits of information that are flooding your neurological system every single second, you’re unconsciously picking up on bits and pieces that match you and unconsciously make you like that person.  Most of the time this happens unconsciously, but  what if you could do it intentionally? 


It’s quite easy to match and mirror so that you gain rapport intentionally.


For example, if I was meeting with Janine and she was playing with her pen, I might get my pen and play with it in the same way, or I might position my feet in the same way that she’s got them on the floor. Unconsciously she would pick up on the fact that we’re like each other.  If you remember that physiology is a whopping 55% of communication, you’ll see why one of the quickest ways that you can build rapport with someone is to mirror their actions. 


In matching and mirroring physiology, there are many differing things you could copy – I’ve mentioned habits like tapping fingers or pens, but you can also mirror their breathing rate,  their posture, their gestures, and even their blinking.  I know the idea of mirroring someone’s blinking sounds strange, but we all blink at different rates so one of the easiest ways to match and mirror someone without making them aware of it is to actually blink at the same pace as them.


Remember 90% of our lives is lived unconsciously, so our ability to perceive our space around us is controlled largely by our unconscious.  We’re not aware of it, but our unconscious will pick up on it and decide that we actually like each other. Posture and gestures are other things that you can match and mirror.  This is something that you can easily do while you’re sitting there talking to your prospect about your product and service and if you do it properly they will never even be aware of it.

Exercise Caution in Matching & Mirroring

Please exercise caution in this and use common sense. If somebody’s got a physical impairment or a speech impediment, don’t match and mirror that aspect of their behaviour.  And that really goes without saying.

Just as important, don’t match and mirror unresourceful states like depression or anger.  If someone’s depressed, you want to try and pace them into a nicer state, rather than sinking down into a depressed state with them.

This list of behaviours that you can match and mirror is not exhaustive.  If you can think of more examples, please tell us about them in the comments.

Meta Description:  Matching and mirroring behaviour is one of the fastest and easiest way of building rapport with just about anyone.  Here are some ideas of physiology you can match and mirror.

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Book your complimentary 30-minute Discovery Session with Chandell.

By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


Three of the hardest phrases for people to say are: “I love you;” “I’m sorry;” and “I need help.”  It’s sad really, because I’m sure that if we could express our dependence on others, humble our pride, and admit our insufficiency they world would be a happier place.  “I love you,” tells other people that they’re important, “I’m sorry,” lets people know that you know you’re not perfect (they already know it’s true), and “I need help,” makes it easier to get things done in a far more timely and effective way.

“I Need Help” Doesn’t Sound Needy, it Sounds Wise

Most people don’t like asking for help.  Why is this?  Well, it’s because they think they’re going to be a burden or they’re going to inconvenience people. 

In a business situation people are afraid that if they ask for help their colleagues (or their boss) will think they are incompetent. But the reality is, that when you ask someone to help you understand a situation or complete a task you give them a chance to feel important – to feel good about themselves – and you often also complete your task sooner, and get a better result.

I had a situation a few years ago, when a team member really needed my help and they didn’t ask me for it.  By the time I found out about the situation it was too late in the piece to change anything and I was really, really disappointed because I could have saved that person a great deal of trouble and anxiety with the situation.  Had they come to me, I wouldn’t have felt superior – I would just have been really pleased to help, he would have been saved some stress, and we would all have ended up with a better result.

Everyone likes it when they can help or support someone else. It feels good – and it also means that you have what you need.

In a sales situation, you don’t want to sound needy – but you do need to communicate the fact that you recognise the expertise and knowledge they bring to the table.  It doesn’t matter how much you know about your own product or service, or how much you know about the other person’s industry.  No-one likes to feel unnecessary and unappreciated so one of the most effective things you can do when you are trying to build rapport is to make the other person feel important – after all, it is their business you are trying to attract.

Reframing to Build Rapport

Reframing is a method of changing the meaning of something, and therefore changing how people think about it.  In a sales or business situation reframing is a very useful tool that you can use to check that you’ve understood the situation and ask for their help without sounding ignorant.  Your client knows that you’ve been listening and that you are keen to understand exactly what he needs, but he also has a chance to correct any misunderstanding.  They might even end up with some insights that help them to see your value in a new (even more positive) light. 

As you reframe, you don’t just clarify the situation and cast a new light on it, you also have the opportunity to share your particular expertise in a way that will benefit the client and help them understand what you bring to the table.  There are a lot of techniques for reframing, but saying “I need help,” is a very powerful one. 

Think about it for a moment … you can say: –

  • I need help … understanding how this is a problem for you;
  • I need help … seeing your perspective on this;
  • I need help … knowing why you are dissatisfied with your current solution;
  • I need help … grasping what you are really want;

– and the list goes on.  Your prospect will feel good because he is helping you, and you will be getting valuable information that helps you understand the prospect better, and ultimately deliver exactly what he wants.  That’s a win-win situation

Meta Description:  “I need help,” may be one of the hardest phrases to say, but it is a fantastic way of inspiring confidence and reframing situations.

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Book your complimentary 30-minute Discovery Session with Chandell.

By popular demand we have turned many of our multi-day workshops into multi-week online courses with a live day to kick them off. Learn more at https://businessgrowth.mykajabi.com/masteryoursales


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