How to Build Rapport With Customers

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Building rapport with customers is an essential business skill. For nearly every business and service offered, there are hundreds or thousands of vendors. Many times, it is your personal relationship that you build with clients that will make the difference that decides whether someone will purchase through you or someone else.

Things You'll Need

  • Conversational skills
  • Product knowledge
  • Social skills
  • Time to devote to the client

Rapport means relationship

Building rapport with clients generally means directly meeting the client. Although many marketing experts say that advertising can build rapport, Merriam-Webster defines rapport as a “relation marked by harmony…or affinity.” Certainly, advertising builds word-of-mouth, brand recognition and brand identity and can be considered the driving force behind sales, but rapport means building a relationship.

Meeting a customer face-to-face, either within the business, at a meeting, lunch or a casual meeting requires you to have basic conversational and social skills. Focus on what the client wants, what motivates him and what he is lacking. Get the client to talk about himself.

Choose a hard or soft sell. Depending upon the business, time, location and client’s personality, you may want to use a hard or soft sell. A hard sell is when you focus directly on your business. An example would be a car salesman in his lot. He will talk about selling a car, which car is the most economical or gets the best mileage. An example of a soft sell is a real-estate agent who first asks the client about his or her family, school-age children, work and future plans. Here, the agent is not directly talking about buying a house, but indirectly soliciting information so he can know what the best product is to sell and what the client values and what catch terms he should be using when describing the product. One person may be looking for status, so the seller will build rapport by explaining how the product is exclusive, one-of-a-kind or will make the buyer stand out. A family may be concerned with safety and closeness to shopping and schools.

To direct the conversation your way takes respect, humor, knowledge and charisma. There are many sales and marketing books, online help and classes. One of the classic works of building customer rapport is "How To Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie. One of his main points is that all information is good information. Just talking to a client may not bring any immediate benefits, but there could always be future uses of the information you gain. Also, there is a great value simply for giving your time and attention to a client that leads to greater rapport, a closer relationship and a greater chance of sales.

Watching experts is one of the best ways of becoming a conversationalist that can build rapport. Watch TV programs with a great interviewer, such as Conan O’Brian, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. Watch how they ask leading questions that get maximum information from the “client.” Note what facts and background they bring to the conversation that makes the “client” feel comfortable and open up.

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