Your reputation is one of the most important things you have when it comes to customer relationships. A bad reputation can cost you clients and, ultimately, your entire business.

It’s important to remember that you’re providing a service, of course. But part of that service includes building rapport with clients.

What is rapport? The short definition is “a friendly, harmonious relationship.” In other words, rapport involves a sense of connection in your client relationships.

Keep reading for five essential tips that will help you figure out how to build rapport.

Act Confident

Your clients deserve to know that they’re dealing with someone who is competent and capable. Even on bad days, it will help if you can act confident.

Making eye contact is a classic way to appear confident. But don’t sustain the contact too long; a few seconds of eye contact at a time is fine. You don’t want to seem like you’re staring non-stop.

Good posture is also your friend. Standing or sitting up straight makes you seem more in charge than someone who slouches.

Provide Honest Information

People can tell when you’re only interested in selling them on something. Provide useful, honest information while also emphasizing the positives.

Your commitment to honesty should begin before you even meet up for the first time. If you’re emailing with a potential lead, first give them some essential information via email. Professional service providers who educate their prospects before their initial meeting are saving time and making more money.

A big part of honesty involves not playing games. If someone asks you an uncomfortable question, answer it to the best of your ability. That’s true even if the answer is “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.”

Laugh (When It’s Appropriate)

One of the best conversation tips involves using laughter, but only when it’s appropriate. You want to laugh in a way that feels authentic and engaged.

For instance, don’t laugh if someone says they fell into a puddle of water and had to change clothes before your meeting. That’s laughing at them, not with them.

But if they make a joke about it, you can laugh at that joke.

Ask Questions

If you’re only talking about yourself or business matters, that’s not good. There should be a sense of give-and-take to the conversation.

Stopping and asking a question occasionally is useful here. It shows you’re checking in with the other person because you care about them. You don’t want to give them a spiel and move on.

Be Polite

Don’t forget your basic manners. For instance, if you’re hosting someone in your office, offer them a drink or snack before they sit down.

Later, you may be able to act a little more casual. But right now, building a relationship means observing social niceties.

That’s doubly true if you’re having a client meeting at a restaurant. Always be kind to your waiter. Among other things, it shows your client that you’re capable of being nice even when you aren’t trying to make a deal.

More on Building Rapport With Clients

Building rapport with clients can feel like a “fake it until you make it” situation at first. But the more you practice it, the easier it will feel.

Knowing how to build rapport is also a useful “soft skill” that will serve you well for the rest of your career. Bookmark our business section for more tips and tricks that will help you thrive.