Sell by Building Rapport

by Ryan M. Healy on August 29, 2011

In the book My Voice Will Go with You, the author Sidney Rosen recounts the teaching tales of Milton Erickson.

I found this one particularly interesting because of the sales lesson it teaches. It’s called “Scratching Hogs” (Milton Erickson is the one speaking).

One summer I sold books to pay my way through college. I walked into a farmyard about five o’clock, interviewed the farmer about buying books, and he said, “Young fellow, I don’t read anything. I don’t need to read anything. I’m just interested in my hogs.”

“While you’re busy feeding the hogs, do you mind if I stand and talk to you?” I asked.

He said, “No, talk away, young fellow, it won’t do you a bit of good. I’m not going to pay attention to you; I am busy feeding the hogs.”

And so I talked about my books. Being a farm boy, I thoughtlessly picked up a pair of shingles lying on the ground and started scratching the hogs’ backs as I was talking. The farmer looked over, stopped, and said, “Anybody knows how to scratch a hog’s back, the way hogs like it, is somebody I want to know. How about having supper with me tonight and you can sleep overnight with no charge and I will buy your books. You like hogs. You know how to scratch ‘em the way they liked to be scratched.” (p. 59)

Sometimes selling isn’t so much about selling as it is relating to the other person. People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. They also like to do business with people they respect.

Knowing, liking, trusting, respecting — these are all byproducts of building rapport.

In the story above, Milton Erickson built rapport with the farmer because Erickson knew how to scratch a hog’s back. The farmer was more interested in hogs than anything else, and so Erickson’s simple act of scratching the hogs’ backs the right way built instant rapport.

When you build rapport with a prospect — genuine rapport — he or she will naturally be more inclined to buy from you.

-Ryan M. Healy

About Ryan M. Healy

is a direct response copywriter. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like,, and

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Tim Brownson August 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Erickson was a genius and if you like that Ryan, I’d suggest you check out  Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley which is also about the great man.

Excellent post!

Ryan Healy August 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Thanks for the comment and book recommendation, Tim! :-)

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