The best way to build a rapport with new clients is to be empathetic and show interest in their families. Demonstrating that you have good listening skills and can relate to their lives often breaks the ice and immediately makes them feel comfortable.
One way to break the ice and build a rapport with new customers is to ask about their families. It is important to do this in a way that does not make them feel interrogated, but rather relaxed. Starting out with small talk improves overall communication and relieves any tension that is often present when you are meeting someone for the first time. When you build a rapport, it creates a sense of understanding that makes communicating easier.
People are more prone to tell you about their families and any other personal issues if you maintain eye contact with them at least 60 percent of the time. Family is a great topic because it is typically a common factor that people can both share and relate to. It helps if you inject some humor into the conversation when you bring up this topic, especially if your discussion becomes detailed.
Once you have made an initial connection, be aware of non-verbal communication, which also determines how comfortable a client feels. Try to be conscious of matching your words to your body language. When people are telling you about themselves or their family, be sure to make encouraging sounds and gestures that show you are paying attention. Building a rapport begins with being open, welcoming and relaxed. If a person feels uptight or unwelcome, they will not open up about personal subjects such as their family.
When you learn about a client's family, it creates future opportunities to open conversations with something other than business. If you can ask about a someone's family, or better yet, a specific family member, it shows that you have been paying attention and that you really care about the customer as a person, not just as a client. Developing a rapport based on trust and loyalty is what locks in life-long customers. However, make sure, based on the nature of the relationship, that you only give appropriate compliments.
To get to the point in the conversation where asking about a client's family feels comfortable and natural, you can start out with something smaller such as mentioning a piece of jewelry or discussing a sport you both like. Make sure, though, that you remain professional even while treating clients as friends. Carry this mentality with you to create a rapport with every new client. This will not only build your network, but also lengthy friendships.
A person's family is often his biggest priority in life. When you can establish conversations around that, it shows the human side of you and lets him know that you really care about more than just his business.
Courtesy of John Hill at Flickr.com
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