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The Basics of Building Rapport

By Toku

Many conversations around the coaching profession have to do with how to connect with potential clients.

We spend a lot of time, energy, and money thinking about and considering lots of different approaches, strategies, techniques, and scenarios focused on finding clients, and while finding clients is essential, a lot of coaches are super weak in knowing how to build rapport and relationships with people over the long term after that initial connection is over.

After you meet a potential client and make that first connection with them, the next step is to switch gears and begin to focus on building a rapport with them. If you want to create powerful relationships, it’s crucial that potential clients feel connected to you personally. They need to feel that you care about them as human beings, not just business potentials. The easiest way to turn someone off to working with you is by making your connection ALL about the business. 

So what is the best way to build rapport with someone new?

Well, for starters, here’s one thing you shouldn’t do: ask them, “What do you do?” 

This age-old question is one of the worst things you could ask someone you’re hoping to turn into a coaching client. While this question mainly applies to social gatherings and networking events, it is perhaps the most uninspired and boring question you could ask. It’s one of those questions we’ve all been asked and had to answer a hundred times in our lives. 

It’s also a bit of a classist question. Historically this question was used to determine who was situated on which rungs of the professional or career ladder and to tell us who to associate with.

So instead of asking these kinds of standard questions, try asking more interesting questions. It’s great if you always have a few in your back pocket, ready to go when you meet someone new. Aim for these questions to be engaging, thought-provoking, and to come from a place of genuine curiosity. 

One of my favorite questions is, “What made you interesting as a child?”

This is an excellent question because it often gives you a lot of insight into what formed someone into who they are today. It also usually brings up lots of follow-up questions to keep the conversation going. 

Here are some other questions I love:

  • What are you bored with in your life right now?
  • What are you tolerating or just getting through?
  • What are you struggling with, or what’s your biggest challenge right now? 
  • What’s the dream you’re working towards on the side?

But of course, the question is only the first part. The next part is to slow down and listen. To make people feel like you’re not just trying to get information about their lives to use when it comes time to invite them into coaching, but because you are genuinely interested and you’d enjoy creating a deeper connection with them. 

Whether or not that person is an ideal client, I guarantee you that the power or way of being and asking questions will profoundly affect them. 

At the very least, it’s practice for the times when you will need to be curious with people you actually do want to work with. 

Anyway, why not practice? Why not practice connecting with people that you meet so that when it ‘really matters,’ – when you are talking to someone you really want to coach or connect with – it will be just like reaching into your pocket and pulling out the right tools you need to create a conversation and connection that’s powerful and memorable?

Don’t just ask people what they do for a living. Be curious. Be adventurous. Be a better conversationalist. You have no idea what might happen as a result.

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