6 Ways to Build Rapport With Clients and Colleagues

To make a real connection, show genuine interest and be your true self.

When working to make your business a success, you want to forge strong relationshipsboth with the members of your team and the client you hope to do business with. But building rapport with new people doesn’t come easy for everyone.

Below, six entrepreneurs discuss their top tips for making connections that can turn into lasting business relationships.

Be curious.

“Most people love to talk. When you let them, they exit your conversation with a positive feeling, which helps build your connection,” says Darrah Brustein, founder of networking event specialist Network Under 40. The easiest way to show your new acquaintance you’re interested in them is by listening and making an effort to find out more.

“When you lead with curiosity and ask thoughtful questions that allow them to share and open up, you build a connection, and that leads to trust. As you ask questions, you’ll likely find places where you have commonalities, and that is a quick rapport builder.”

Be candid.

You’ll likely have a hard time building rapport if someone suspects you’re holding back or being dishonest with them. That’s why Firas Kittaneh, CEO of online mattress retailer Amerisleep, recommends beginning with candor.

“A little honesty goes a long way,” he says. “You can divulge sensitive business information about your revenue, share a unique criticism about the other person’s approach to business or reveal something personal that makes you a bit vulnerable. By being candid, you are able to quickly develop rapport with others, as they know they can trust you’ll always have an unfiltered response.”

Find common interests.

Sometimes the best way to forge a bond is to start by identifying the things you already have in common. “Engage in conversation with the person, discover their outside interests — sports, hobbies, travel — and find what similar interests you share with the person,” suggests Shawn Schulze, president of online marketing agency AffAction, LLC.

“Having common interests to talk about makes the conversation easy and can build that initial connection,” he says.

Be yourself.

Ryan Wilson, founder and CEO of digital marketing company FiveFifty, takes a slightly different approach, focusing on authenticity even when interests don’t necessarily align. He says: “People can tell when you’re being fake. More often than not, folks would rather hear someone they meet talk passionately and openly about anything than force a stunted conversation about last night’s game.”

If you’re not a fan of small talk, don’t try to force it. Let your new connection see you for the person you are. “Instead of digging deep to find any shred of a shared interest, simply rely on some of the simpler attributes everyone appreciates. Be friendly, ask questions and follow through on promises,” adds Wilson.

Spend time together in person.

“While communicating online is convenient for work, it can often take much longer to build rapport,” says Serenity Gibbons of time management solution Calendar. After all, you may spend time texting with friends, but the time you actually spend together is usually when your relationships grow most.

“If you are in the same city at some point for work or other reasons, meet up in person and spend a few hours together,” recommends Gibbons. “It’s a much faster way to see where each person is coming from and to better illustrate your own personality and values.”

Share value.

Remember, at the end of the day, you’re both hoping to get something out of this relationship. So start off strong by finding a way to give away something that will be useful and meaningful to the other person.

“I try to really get to know people. Find out what’s affecting their business, what they are concerned about on a daily basis, that sort of thing. Understand people, and you’ll be able to create value for them,” says Nicole Munoz, founder of SEO and marketing firm Start Ranking Now. “Value is how you create rapport, and it doesn’t have to be something extreme. Just sharing an article or a piece of advice on something highly relevant to them is enough.”

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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