Matching, Pacing, and Rhythm

Mar 31, 2011

Last week I went to pay some bills online. I looked at my account and realized there were charges listed that I had never made. I called the bank immediately. We shut down all of my accounts and opened new ones.

I went to the bank ten business days later, and I still did not have a functioning ATM card. That meant that rather than simply go to an ATM for cash, I had to wait in a long, long line at the bank for a teller. Twenty minutes later, by the time I got to the head of the line, I was seriously annoyed. I expressed my annoyance to the teller. Her response? “Calm down, Ma’am.”

So my dear readers, do you think this response calmed me down?

Of course not. It had exactly the opposite effect. I went through the roof. “Don’t tell me to calm down,” I snarled. Where before I had simply been annoyed, now I was really angry.

So why am I sharing my banking woes?

The above story illustrates a basic principal: If you want people to respond well to you, you must meet them where they are. Had that teller been well trained, and had she really wanted to calm me down, she should have responded by matching my intensity and agreeing that not having an ATM card and having to wait in a long line was really annoying. She could have then apologized for the situation (“I’m sorry you still don’t have your card”) and I would have felt heard and understood.

When making introductory calls, or even in your face-to-face meetings with prospects, you have no idea what may have happened the moment before you called or walked in the door. You have no way of predicting the mood or the personality of your prospect. Whoever they are and wherever they are, you want to meet them in the same place. This is called Matching. You want to match your prospect’s intensity, energy, rhythm, and personality as much as you can. This does not mean that if your prospect seems to be angry, you need to be angry too. It means that you acknowledge that anger and respond at a similar level of energy and intensity.

What is interesting is that if you match your prospect, you can then help them to shift their energy. Had that bank teller responded by acknowledging my annoyance and matching my energy, she would have calmed me right down. Once we were in the same place, all she would have had to do was speak a little more slowly. I would have followed. This is called Pacing. You go to where your prospect is, then you can start to take them to a different place.

Because I’m a dancer, rhythm is important to me. Everyone has his or her own internal rhythm. There are also regional differences in rhythm. I live and work in the Northeast. We tend to be speedier than other areas of the country. When I call another part of the country, I need to slow down a bit. I have a client based in the Midwest who frequently calls the Northeast. She needs to speed up when she makes those calls. This is also Matching.

A good place to start is by simply listening to other people’s rhythms. If they speak quickly, so do you. If they are a little slower, well, slow down. Over time you will begin to do this automatically. Once you’ve got the rhythm down, work on the other elements, the intensity and energy. You will find that the more you are able to Match and Pace your prospects, the easier it will be to build rapport and have great conversations.

If you’d like help knowing what to say to prospects, I invite you to download my Special Free Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script. You can easily access it here:

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