Stop, Look and Listen to get the most from your client

Building rapport is a vital skill for successful client interaction, says Ian Kaye

I mentioned in my article in the last issue of Accounting Practice magazine the idea that building rapport with your client aids greatly in your ability to communicate effectively with your client. This therefore greatly increases the chance of either winning some new work, understanding the brief correctly and generally building a good working relationship.

So let’s look closely at what it means to build rapport with your client and why this can have such a positive influence.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves what we mean by rapport. Rapport is the unconscious influence of one person to another. In other words, by being able to be in tune with another person enables you to have a positive influence on that person. Naturally, this includes an influence in the working environment and so as an adviser to a client if you have rapport you can more naturally and easily have the influence that you want to. After all, who doesn’t want our clients to take our advice!

Calibration

People advise you should listen intently to your clients, and I agree. Calibration is taking that client focus to another level. Next time you are with a client or perhaps preparing for a key meeting ask yourself this simple question: “With what I’m about to say, what will my client see, hear and feel?”

Now that you have asked the question it’s time to go about the difficult work of being prepared for the answer. Being fully prepared for the answer means calibrating your client’s response. What did your client say? How did they say it? What tone did they use? Where did your client look and what did this tell you? Do they have any particular body movements or hand gestures that were out of the ordinary? What about their breathing patterns – did this question get a response that triggered some kind of stress and actually meant that your client’s breathing pattern changed, however slightly? This level of close observations is what is meant by calibration.

Speech

The first and most obvious area where you can really take the time to listen carefully to your client – or indeed colleague – with a view to responding in a way that best suits them is literally in the way they speak. What tone of voice do they use? How quickly do they speak? How loudly or indeed quietly – is there a big range when they are expressing themselves? Now try to think about how you speak: are you calm, measured and softly spoken? If so, how does that come across to a client that speaks particularly fast and particularly loud? Perhaps even more challenging is what if you are the one that speaks quickly and loudly, and your client speaks calmly, quietly and slowly. In this scenario I wonder how comfortable your potential client feels when interacting with you?

Eye movement

The eyes are a map of the mind; that is to say as you enhance your calibration skills you will also notice the eye movements of the person that you are speaking with, which can be enlightening.

In summary, it is good to be aware that if somebody looks up they are normally visualising something; if they look directly left or right they are often remembering words or creating what it is they want to say in their minds. Lastly, if they are looking down they are normally either accessing their feelings or having internal dialogue.

As you enhance your calibration skills being able to notice the eye movements of the person you are speaking with so you can learn to respond accordingly. For example, if you are speaking with someone and they look up, assess if it is relevant for you to say something like “so how does that look to you?”

In this moment you have made a connection and encouraged the sharing of information; namely, whatever was being pictured at that moment.

I encourage you to think about any upcoming meetings you may have, and which element of these calibration skills you want to work on. What will you see, hear and feel when you are better at calibrating?

• Ian Kaye is the CFO of a med tech start-up. He also a business coach, focusing on soft skills.

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