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You have an important meeting with a new client and you want to make a good first impression. This client needs your help with a performance problem to determine whether training is the right solution. You’ll want to put on your problem-solving hat, but it doesn’t end there. You also need strong interpersonal skills if you want to be successful. One of the first things you can do is build rapport with the client.
Building rapport is all about creating an environment of trust and understanding between two people. When this is achieved, people feel comfortable, they exchange information easily, and the communication feels natural.
So how do we make this happen? In our Consulting Skills for Trainers workshop, we discuss many tips and strategies for building rapport with clients. Of course, you’ll greet the client, thank her for her time, and engage in a few minutes of small talk, if she likes socializing. You’ll give your full attention to the client, with your eyes, voice, and body. You’ll look at the client, use a warm and friendly tone of voice, and sit square to her.
Although it’s often overlooked, another technique is to mirror and match the other person’s verbal and non-verbal behaviors. This is done by observing the other person’s words, voice, facial expression, body posture, and gestures.
So, how would this work? For verbal behaviors, use some of the same words, pace your speech at a similar rate, or use a similar volume. For non verbals, if the client crosses his legs, cross yours, or if he’s using hand gestures, do the same when it’s your turn to speak. It’s best to mirror movements that are comfortable for you and avoid mirroring the other person’s actions instantly. It’s also important to be subtle when mirroring. You don’t want your client to think you’re mimicking him.
Now, if you’re feeling uncomfortable with this technique, please remember that matching is a natural part of the rapport building process. We do it unconsciously with our family and friends. Have you ever noticed two people talking and you can tell right away that they’re best friends? They mirror and match each other naturally. If we use this technique, with integrity and respect, it will create positive feelings for everyone.
Remember to build rapport through mirroring and matching and you’ll give the message that you’re “on the same wavelength.” You’ll have more meaningful communications with clients, colleagues, and peers. What do you do to build rapport with others? Please share your tips so we can all excel at this very important task.