Why Building Rapport With Your Clients Will Make You A Better Coach

written by: Nadia Shapiro

It could be that one of the reasons your clients aren’t choosing to take the next step with you is because you may have a lack of rapport. Rapport is a term often used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and it means being able to relate to others in such a way that you can easily build trust and understanding.

It allows you to see the other person’s point of view and generally means that this person will respond to you in an open and relaxed manner. This does not mean that you will always need to agree with your client’s point of view, rather that you can acknowledge it and see things the way that they do.

When rapport is built the correct way, it will allow your clients to trust you and therefore be much more willing to share their own experiences, as well as their fears, doubts, goals and ambitions. Having rapport with your clients allows you to be more authentic in your communication with them and will allow both of you to freely express yourselves.

As a successful entrepreneur and business coach, you need to learn and understand the steps you can take to easily build rapport with your clients. Once you’ve practiced these steps a number of times, they will start to come naturally and you’ll soon find that you’ll be building rapport with everyone you meet without even realizing what you are doing.

How To Build Rapport.

By following and practicing these 9 steps, you will find that your coaching appointments will be much more enjoyable and your clients will look forward to your sessions together and will share much more of themselves than they would have previously.

1. Find Some Common Ground.

Firstly you want to establish some common ground with your client. Try to determine any similarities that the two of you may share. You may have had some similar experiences in the past or share common values and ideas. This is an important step in building rapport because it will show your clients that in some ways, you are just like them.

You see, people feel the most comfortable with others who share some of their own values, beliefs and life experiences. You can see evidence of this when looking at your own group of friends. You most likely have more than one thing in common with each and every one of them.

Always start by asking questions to find out more about your clients and their goals and desires. Believe it or not, most people actually do like talking about themselves and their life, and the fact that you have shown an interest in them, instantly makes them feel more relaxed and comfortable with you.

When responding to anything that your client is saying make sure that you ask for permission to give feedback. This shows that you value them as a person and is great for building trust.

Also try to share some of your own experiences to show that in some ways you are just like your client. Sharing experiences which your client can relate to is a great way to start building rapport with them.

2. Be An Active Listener.

Find out what is most important to your client, what makes them tick and what their beliefs and values are. When your client is answering your questions, listen intently and give little snippets of feedback if required. You can even mirror some of the things your client is saying by starting a question or comment with a phrase they have just used.

For example, “so you say that one of your goals is….”. This shows that you are really listening and is referred to as an ‘active listening technique’.

Another active listening technique is to actually show your client that you’re listening by using positive body language. Nod occasionally, keep eye contact and smile. Make sure your posture is open and inviting and use small verbal acknowledgements such as “yes and okay”. You may even like to lean forward a little when you feel your client is sharing something really important.

3. Determine What Their Communication Style Is.

There are four different communication and learning styles that most people will fall into:

Visual – A visual communicator learns best with their eyes. For this kind of client you want to be slightly more animated, sit up straight and use hand movements to demonstrate a point. Try to always maintain good eye contact as well.

Auditory – A person who is auditory will learn best by listening. Here you want to modulate the tone of your voice more and speak clearly and concisely. Tilt your head slightly when you’re listening to your client as this will indicate to them that you are truly listening.

Kinaesthetic – These people learn best by touch and doing things. When you meet a client who is kinaesthetic, you’ll firstly want to give them a warm but firm hand shake. If it’s appropriate, a touch on the arm while you’re sharing a story will instantly make them feel that they can relate to you.

Auditory-Digital – Auditory-digitals are able to use all the above communication styles simultaneously but they will also want to know the ‘why, how and what if’. In a classroom situation, these are the people who will always be asking questions because they really do need to know the ins and outs completely. With this kind of client, you actually do need to explain how things work.

It may take a little practice to work out what communication style each client has but as a general rule, visual people will often wear bright colors and be quite vivacious. Auditory clients will be quieter and more reserved as they’re used to listening. Kinaesthetics will often like to touch things or hold things in their hands and auditory-digitals will always ask questions.

If you can match your client’s communication style, you will easily make them feel relaxed and comfortable because you are communicating with them in the best way that they will easily understand.

4. Mirror Their Body Language.

When you’re sitting and talking with a client, try to mirror some of their body language, like their hand gestures or posture. This is a subtle and subconscious way to make your clients think that you are just like them. Make sure that you do this tactfully so that your client is not aware of your intention.

5. Match Their Verbal Language.

Try to match the tone of your client’s voice if you can and listen to the words they tend to use most frequently. Try to incorporate some of those words into your own sentences when you are talking to your client. This is a form of empathy which comes naturally to some people but which can be learnt. For example, your client may frequently use the word ‘absolutely’ or ‘unlikely’, and you will definitely notice when this is happening. Try to incorporate this common used word into some of your own sentences.

It’s very similar to situations where you might be speaking to someone with a different accent, and after a while you’ll automatically pick up and start speaking with a similar accent. This type of rapport building is extremely powerful because once again, it means that your client will find it easy to relate to you.

By matching your client’s language, they will feel that they are understood and will continue to open up and authentically express where they are at. It’s an excellent way for you to build trust with your client.

6. Never Be Judgmental.

Try to never judge your client on their beliefs or values. You may not agree with everything they believe in but try to be understanding and to see the world from their point of view. No-one likes to be judged or belittled because of what they believe in and this is a sure way to kill any hope you have of building good rapport with your client.

7. Give Affirmations.

Once you’ve started to get to know your client, you’ll quickly be able to pick up on their strengths and abilities. A lot of people are not often aware of their own qualities, you need to affirm these for them.

As human beings, we’re not really wired to appreciate our own abilities and quite often see ourselves very differently to how others see us. For this reason, it’s important that you, as the coach, make your client aware of the good qualities that he or she may not even know about.

Congratulate your client on every small achievement and give him or her some feedback on the strengths that you are observing.

8. Do Some Research.

Before meeting a client for the first time, try to do a little research on them if you can. See if they have a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile. Check out what content they are sharing to understand what their passions or interests are. You may even learn if they have any professional achievements or what they do in their spare time.

This can give you some good ideas of how to start the conversation by sharing some of your own experiences that are similar to your client’s interests and hobbies. For instance, your client may have tweeted about a recent news event. You can start a conversation with “Did you hear about…..”.

This is a subconscious way of letting your client know that you have certain interests in common and will instantly build some rapport from the start. Obviously you want to be very subtle about this and not make your client aware that you’ve been researching them, otherwise they may start to feel a little uncomfortable and that is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

9. Understand Your Limitations.

At some time in your coaching career you may come across a client who is just not a good fit for you or vice versa. Use the rapport skills which you have developed to acknowledge this and gently let the client know that they may be better off looking for a different coach who better matches their needs and personality.

It’s not fair on either you or your client to continue the coaching relationship when it’s just not working.

Practicing Your Rapport Building Techniques.

Before you start to use some of these techniques with your clients, you may like to practice them when in social situations or generally out and about. The more you practice building rapport, the easier and more natural it will become.

Try talking to someone you’ve never met before at a party you may be attending. Use some of the techniques which we’ve just discussed such as asking questions and mirroring body language and watch your new friend’s reactions. The more rapport you build with this person, the more they’ll want to talk to you and you may find that they will seek you out for the rest of the evening.

Do the same while you’re out shopping by starting up a conversation with someone while you’re lining up at the checkout. The more that you practice your rapport building skills, the easier it will become and you will soon find that you’re actually enjoying the process.

Networking events can also be excellent for practicing your rapport building techniques. You may even find that you come away with some useful business connections.

Always remember that when you’re using these techniques to build rapport, to make it as natural as possible and certainly not obvious to your client. For instance, don’t completely mirror their body image, just make very subtle changes to your posture like crossing your legs or folding your hands.

Your client should not be aware that you are trying to build rapport with them otherwise they may think that you’re trying to mimic them. Don’t worry though, after you’ve practiced this a few times, you will naturally start to make your client feel at ease without even realizing what you are doing.

Probably the most important thing is to be genuine and honest in your approach to your client. Make them feel comfortable and at ease and both of you will find the coaching experience valuable and rewarding.

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