During a given week I’ll have a handful of phone calls with clients. While each call has a formal agenda to ensure we cover the KPIs and follow up on all outstanding items I feel that the most important part of the call is right at the beginning. Why?
At the beginning of the call I take a couple minutes to ask how the client is doing. Not from a business perspective, but individually. While this can often lead to small talk about the weather (a popular topic when you’re hundreds or thousands of miles apart) it also has led to some great discussions about vacations, family events, hobbies and more. Even though these few minutes aren’t spent talking about business, they’re vital to nurturing the relationship. Here are 3 tips on how to do it better:
3 Tips For Building Rapport
You’ve Got To Care
The question can’t come across as a formality and your response can’t be phoned in (pun; get it?). At the beginning of the relationship you’ll really have to ask good questions to find out their interests. Think about activities in the area such as local sports, nature, current events, etc. that genuinely interest you because caring shows in your body language and voice. So make sure the caring shows!
Ask Good Questions
First, the questions you ask should be open-ended. Start with words like “How” or “What” or “Why” because they elicit more than one-word answers. The goal is to have a discussion that will build rapport and cement the relationship, not just check off some box on a checklist. Good questions lead to good conversation.
Remember, Remember, Remember!
As with many things in life, the follow up is vital. If you discover that your client is a big fan of equestrian sports you’ll want to remember that. Then, on your next call you’ll have a great topic on which to base your questions and in the interim you’ll notice if big events in that area occur. Just last year we had the first Triple Crown winner in over 30 years. If your client is into equestrian sports that is probably something you could ask about and have a great conversation.
If they’re fans of a local sports team you can ask about the recent game or news on that team. Don’t feel uncomfortable writing down their interests in your notes. Put a sticky note on your wall. Whatever works for you.
In the end you want the client to know that you genuinely care about something in their life that isn’t related to your business relationship. Having conversations about those things will come naturally and you’ll find that the relationship will be on more solid ground for business purposes as well.
What tips do you have for strengthening client relationships? Share with us in the comments!