If you want to create superior relationships with your clients you must learn how to: Establish Rapport; Often confused with being liked, rapport has little to do with being liked but everything to do with connecting with your client on a level where you understand your client on both an intellectual and emotional level. The dictionary defines rapport as a “harmonious mutual understanding,” a meeting of the minds. Rapport may encourage the client to like you, but by no means is it necessary and certainly at times, rapport is present even while being liked is absent.
Building rapport demands you focus your attention on your prospect or client, instead of what you want to get out of the session, what you’re going to say next, or how you’re going to get the signature on the contract. I’ve found that basic actions are the most effective at building rapport. Really listening to the client, hearing what they say instead of what I want them to say, making sure that I understand what they really mean, responding to the question they asked instead of the question I wanted them to ask, and answering their questions openly and honestly. In addition, asking questions that not only allow them to fully state their wants, needs, goals, and opinions, but that encourage them to do so.
Building rapport is about communication. Real skill comes in learning to verbally communicate, learning to listen while encouraging open dialogue and discussion. Learning to accept different points of view and learning how to give guidance and direction in a manner that supports the client will move them in the right direction rather than creating a chasm between yourself and your client.
Establish Trust; Trust, even more than rapport is critical for successful long-term client relationships. The dictionary defines trust as “a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character or a person or thing.” “Trust implies depth and assurance of feeling that is often based on inconclusive evidence.” Trust is difficult to establish and easy to lose. Trust for most people isn’t built on words alone but on a combination of words and actions. For most clients, trust isn’t established during a single meeting or even over a few meetings. Trust is earned by having one’s actions match their words. Building trust, just like building rapport, is an activity. It doesn’t just happen, it’s created by actively doing the things that build trust. Being honest in words and deeds, by being timely in doing exactly what you say you’re going to do and by putting your client’s good ahead of yours.
If you really want to create strong, lasting relationships with your clients that will be the foundation of your business, that will generate strong client referrals for you, and that will produce business year after year, invest time and effort in learning the secrets of building rapport and trust. Don’t worry about being liked, being cute, or being their pal. Concentrate on being their trusted advisor, the one who really understands their wants and needs and who they know unselfishly pursues the best possible solution for them. That’s the secret to great client relationships.
My coaching and consulting business has been built solely on referrals for thirty years now through building rapport, establishing trust and providing result driven strategies within each engagement. I am viewed as a strategic business advisor who is truly invested in my clients long term success. When you master developing professional relationships you find that clients repeatedly seek you out instead of the other way around, and your business will continue to grow through those established relationships. Remember, "The key to longevity in business is having clients who create clients."
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