Building client relationships isn’t easy. All clients are different and will respond to coaching styles in their own ways.
What works for one client may not for another, but there are basics to client relationship management that benefit and support all coachees, no matter who they are.
When thinking about how to build strong client relationships across a wide range of coachees, remember it all comes down to mutual respect and keeping your mind (and ears) open. Appreciate your clients' differences, give them your very best, and stay curious.
This may sound like the perfect recipe for a positive, lasting relationship with a client, but how can you pull it off in real life? We’ll explain how to build client relationships using simple but effective interpersonal skills in your sessions.
How to build strong relationships with clients: 10 surefire tips
1. Don’t hold back
Give your clients your all in a session by sharing as much as possible (ensuring you leave enough time to listen, as well). The relationship between coach and coachee is essentially a knowledge transfer and opportunity to influence their perspective; given your experience helping others, knowledge is something you have plenty of. The more you share, the more likely your client resonates with at least one point.
2. Stay positive
You should stay positive even if you’re working through complex and difficult problems with your client. Create a comfortable working environment and a safe and private space for conversation to thrive. Smile, sit up straight, and use gentle body language. Show you’re actively listening by remembering details. Bringing up these details in future sessions adds a personal touch and shows your client you care. And always try to end the session on a high note and highlight your client’s milestones.
3. Stay curious
You may have experience, but it’s best not to act like a know-it-all. There’s a fine balance between showing you’re capable and dominating a session with your thoughts, especially with new clients. Listen to each client and learn who they really are. Find out what their pain points are to better tailor your coaching strategies to them. Finally, never take for granted what you could learn from a client — they have their own experience, as well.
4. Communicate effectively and proactively
Good communication starts with showing respect and managing clients’ expectations upfront. The two things go hand in hand. You show your client you respect them and their journey by setting reasonable goals instead of giving them false hope. As your coaching relationship progresses, continue to demonstrate respect by reminding your client you’re engaged. Be present, remember personal details, come to sessions prepared, and listen more than you speak.
If you don’t meet with your clients in person and are learning how to build client relationships remotely, pay extra attention to your body language, eye contact, and clarity of speech to ensure you reach the same personal connection you would face-to-face. Remind clients of the various lines of communication available to them if they need additional support. You’re just a phone call or text away. Remote connections make some people more comfortable because they can meet with you and express themselves from the comfort of their homes.
5. Speak the client’s language
Save complex coaching jargon for your colleagues. Using complex industry terms clients aren’t familiar with isn’t a helpful demonstration of your knowledge and skills. It’s often isolating and confusing to your clients. Speak to your clients in a professional but straightforward manner. Focus on having genuine conversations and ensure your client feels comfortable by using common words to express themself.
6. Focus on quality
Prioritize quality over quantity. Instead of creating months-long coaching programs, focus on hitting closer milestones that are equally effective. Stay focused in your sessions, come prepared with activities and good questions, and gently guide your clients towards their own solutions. And never waste a client’s time by multitasking during a session.
7. Build rapport right from the start
Clients won’t feel comfortable opening up to a coach they don’t trust, so build rapport from day one. Be friendly, polite, and professional, and show the client you care about their progress. Does this seem easier said than done? There are a few easy ways to build trust early. First, listen intently and appreciate the ways every client is different. Secondly, come to the first session prepared. Finally, remind the client you’ll tailor your coaching plan to their needs.
8. Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something
No one’s perfect, and even the most experienced professionals make mistakes. Instead of trying to cover up, admit when you’ve made an error. Did you accidentally double-book clients? Reach out to reschedule and apologize for the oversight — and do it early. Consider implementing client relationship management (CRM) tools to avoid making the same mistake.
Are you not familiar with a topic important to your coachee? Let the client know you’re interested in learning more and spend time outside of the session following up on whatever it is. Never come off as being too proud or having nothing left to learn. This attitude won’t benefit you or your clients.
9. Exceed expectations
Set yourself up for success by underpromising and overdelivering. The idea isn’t to set the bar low but to be realistic about outcomes. This leaves you the opportunity to wow a client when they make more progress than expected, or you go above and beyond as a coach.
10. Show your humanity
By being relatable without taking over the conversation with personal anecdotes, you’ll be well on your way to quickly building rapport. Remind your clients you also have had to overcome challenges and work toward your goals. Your knowledge and practice help you continue bettering yourself. A good client relationship is a partnership more than anything else. By emphasizing we’re all on a journey to become our best selves, your sessions will feel less transactional.
Get started now
If you went through the list above and found a few points you could strengthen, start implementing them in your next session. None of this advice requires any special training or tools, just intention and practice.
You’re already doing a great job, so don’t look at the things you could improve on as failures. Instead, try to see these takeaways as opportunities to foster better business long-term relationships, interest from new clients, and repeat business.
At Practice, we understand how important healthy client relationships are, and we don’t want you to affect your relationships or reputation by making simple mistakes. Let us help you never double-book yourself or miss the opportunity to help your clients.