By ROHINI RAJARATNAM
You know how some people just have the knack for networking? It just takes them one conversation to turn a foe into friend. Fret not if you aren’t one of them because we’re here to help you or at least, help you fool others. Communication or some would say “social skills and charisma” is more of a skill than a talent. And the thing is, building rapport with a client usually comes from open communication.
Let’s start by laying down what exactly rapport really means. Merriam-Webster defines it as “relation characterised by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.” In simple terms, it means a state of harmonious understanding with another individual or group that enables greater and easier communication. Rapport is similar to trust, and you can often build trust and rapport simultaneously. However, building rapport focuses more on establishing a bond or connection.
So the question stands: why is it essential to build that communication grid with your client? Apart from the fact that it makes dealing with the client much easier, it’s essential in ensuring the aim of the relationship. When a client is comfortable and open enough to express what they want to achieve, you have to admit the work gets done faster.
Here are four essential practices to build that bond:
1. Breaking the ice
It’s your first meeting, you’ve heard how he sounds like, figured out exactly how he types and all that’s left is a face (not talking about the Snapchat filter picture on his WhatsApp profile).
Before you walk in, first, always have your research done and at least have an idea of who you’re dealing it. Now, if your client happens to be a huge believer on going “low profile,” take the time to get to know him instead and share a little bit of yourself. At all costs, resist indulging in a little schmoozing. That could be a tad off-putting.
To get the conversation going, try finding common ground. Think of how comfortable you might feel if meeting someone from your hometown whilst living miles away from it. The sense of connectedness creates an instant rapport between two people! Hence, use open-ended questions as they give room to the other to express themselves, thereby giving you a chance at discovering.
2. The personal touch
Everybody likes to feel important, to have that sense of being respected and treated like an equal. Regardless of which client you’re dealing with, treat all of them as your important ones. You never know who your clients may know or to whom they will refer you. Remember the small details, like how they like their coffee or even their children’s names.
The personal touch means extra work for you, but hey, nobody’s complaining when profits come flooding in. When a client e-mails you, acknowledge the receipt of the e-mail as quickly as possible, even if you do not have the answer they are looking for. You will give them comfort by simply acknowledging the receipt of their request and by communicating that you’re on it.
And once a project is done, remember to follow up with your clients or recap what was successful and what could have been smoother for the next time around. Check in with them at intervals to ensure that the strategy or deliverable is still effective. Excellent customer service is about long-term happiness and success, not just finishing a project on time and on budget.
What is “mirroring”? It’s adjusting your own body language and spoken language to “reflect” the person you’re talking to. In other words, you become the mirror image of that person! Mirroring makes the other person feel comfortable and, most importantly, it makes them feel that they’re being understood.
Start by analysing their body language including their gestures and posture. Take for example, if the person takes a seat with both hands folded, you then copy the person’s posture. Mirror the other person’s language. If he or she uses simple, direct words, then you should too. If the person speaks in technical language, then match that style if appropriate.
Also, on a subtle level, remember that being too overt can be counterproductive.
4. If all else fails, humour them!
There’s no such thing as too much laughter. There is something about it that breaks down some of the barriers between people and removes some of the tension. So if you find yourself stuck and running out of topics, attempt your level best at being the joker. However, if you’re known for telling a joke that nobody gets or having the “foot in mouth” syndrome, then maybe it’s best you shy away from this.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” —Sun Tzu, The Art of War