There’s been a long-standing saying in business that “it is not what you know; it’s who you know.” In an industry like consulting, you are continually meeting new people, whether it is clients, coworkers, etc. In order to succeed in the industry, it is critical to form good relationships with your counterparts. One of the tenets of forging good relationships is knowing how to build rapport with your counterparts. This article will share the definition of rapport, the types of rapport you can build, and tips to build rapport.
What is Rapport?
Rapport refers to the ability to form strong relationships with others via your communication, body language, etc. There are several definitions of the word rapport:
- In the article “You are the key: Communicate for learning effectiveness,” Catt, Miller, and Schallenkamp define rapport as “an overall feeling between two people encompassing a mutual, trusting, and prosocial bond” (read full article here)
- Masterclass defines rapport as “a harmonious relationship between people who have established mutual trust. Building rapport is how humans connect, identify shared feelings, and establish two-way communication. Rapport develops out of meaningful conversations and a willingness to embrace different points of view.” (read full story here)
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Types of Rapport
Overall, it is extremely important to build rapport across your stakeholder groups. Especially in an industry like consulting, it is important to have strong relationships across the several groups, given you are expected to influence a wide variety of stakeholders. There are multiple tips and tricks for building rapport across these groups. While some of the tactics are similar across the groups, some are unique to the group.
How to Build Rapport with Clients
There are several ways to build rapport with clients, namely to make sure the clients feel heard and understood. Specific tactical skills you can employ include:
- Being an active listener
- Taking notes
- Asking inquisitive questions
- Making sure you are not coming across as robotic
- Making sure your body language is open and relaxed
- Fostering a trusted relationship; making the other party feel safe and secure
How to Build Rapport in Sales
While the tactics to build rapport with colleagues you are selling to may be similar to the tactics you use to build rapport with clients, the motivation behind the tactics may differ. Specifically, in sales, you want to understand your clients needs and show how your solutions fit clients’ needs. Specific tactical skills you can employ include:
- Listening and understanding the client’s needs
- Taking notes
- Bringing high energy
How to Build Rapport with Coworkers
When building rapport with coworkers, it is especially important to be a team player and make sure that you come across as a full person that is empathetic, caring, and understanding. Specific tactical skills you can employ include:
- Conducting ice breakers
- Discovering similarities with coworkers
- Smiling and having a warm disposition
- Being well rounded and not coming off as “robotic”
- Having open and relaxed
- Check your body language
- Be empathetic
How to Build Rapport with Employees
When building rapport with employees, it is important to show that you are a caring people leader. Ways to do this include:
- Discovering similarities with coworkers
- Sharing personal experiences
- Checking in employees
- Being transparent
How to Build Rapport in an Interview
There are several ways to build rapport in case interviews, including smiling throughout the interview, making small talk before the case interview starts, and tying elements of the case interview into your life. To read the Management Consulted’s guide to case interviewing, please click here.
Rapport Building Skills
There are specific rapport building skills that are essential to posses in order to build rapport effectively. Let’s take a quick look at a few of those below.
If you’re unfamiliar with emotional intelligence, check out our article on the topic here. It talks about how employing emotional intelligence allows you to be aware of your emotions, and that of others, with purpose. You may be another’s manager, and guiding them through a stressful situation, or interpersonal conflict. That direct report feeling like you care goes a long ways in building trust and influence beyond your positional title. That moves you into a much stronger leadership position.
Communicating effectively minimizes chances for misunderstandings and mistakes. The more clearly you’re able to communicate, more more reason people have to trust you and what you say. That goes a long way toward building rapport with others.
Asking Good Questions
One you think about rapport building skills, asking good questions may not be the first thing that comes to your mind. Yet, asking good questions is indeed a skill unto itself. It allows you to gain insight into a person or situation, and at the same time, allow the person your interacting with to feel known and heard. It’s a win/win!
How to Improve Rapport Building Skills
Overall, when shaping rapport building skills, practice makes perfect. The first way to build rapport is to be intentional about your actions – you should be aware of your body language, your language and how it may be impacting others, and how much you disclose. Sometimes, game-planning before an important conversation is helpful. For example, you can also think about what you would like to share with your colleagues beforehand to be more intentional and shape the narrative more effectively. In addition, when you identify colleagues that are able to build rapport successfully, it could be helpful to mirror some of their behaviors. Finally, while there is prep you can do to build rapport, it is also helpful to not look forced.
Building rapport is a critical skill to master to advance in consulting. There are several ways to build rapport with stakeholders, including: being an active listener, coming across as a whole person, making sure your body language is open and relaxed, and smiling! While some of these skills can be natural, they can also be learned. The key to learning these skills is to practice, practice, practice and to be as intentional as possible throughout your communications.