6 Steps to Build Rapport with Clients and Become a Trustworthy Coach

building rapport with clients
building rapport with clients

Do you need help to build rapport with your clients? 

It’s a common issue many life coaches face, especially when dealing with complex issues such as a client’s insecurities or past trauma.

Well, rapport building is more than just making small talk! 

It involves using effective communication skills and creating treatment approaches tailored to each unique client you work with.

It’s about expressing nonjudgmental acceptance and listening carefully, which can lead to a powerful coach–client bond.

To help you build this bond with your clients, we’ll delve into why good rapport is so crucial in coaching relationships and how you can improve your ability to establish it effectively. 

Keep reading to learn more about:

  • What rapport building is
  • The importance of building rapport with clients
  • 5 effective rapport-building techniques

What Is Rapport Building?

Life coaches don’t just dish out advice or strategies when building rapport with clients. 

The word “rapport” simply means “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.”

It’s like building a friendship but with a professional twist.

If you build rapport effectively, you’ll have more meaningful interactions with your clients. They’ll be more likely to heed your advice and take action in a beneficial way. 

Rapport building with clients is like the secret sauce of life coaching: 

  • It is where you create a cozy connection with your clients so they feel comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings. 
  • You’re also creating an experience where your clients feel understood, valued, and ready to conquer the world. 
  • You’re creating an environment where open dialogue can flow freely without judgment or criticism.

Becoming a successful life coach isn’t just about having the right qualifications or mastering different coaching techniques – although those are important too! It’s about connecting with people on an emotional level.

The Importance of Building Rapport with Clients

So, why is building rapport with clients important?

Rapport building is the foundation of any successful coaching relationship. Without it, not all clients will be able to let down their walls – at least, not enough to get to the point where you can help them achieve massive transformation!

When your client feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, it allows you, as the coach, to understand their needs and goals deeper than just the surface level.

Plus, having a good rapport makes your coaching super effective, as clients are more likely to listen to advice from someone they like and trust. 

There are many benefits to building rapport between a life coach and a client. Some of these benefits include:

Increased trust

Building trust and rapport with clients is like the glue that holds coaching sessions together.

When clients trust their coach, they are likelier to be open and honest with them… especially when failure occurs.

For example, let’s say you’re a divorce coach. It’ll take deep trust and rapport before a client can admit what truly happened behind the curtains of their divorce. And without that truth, you won’t be able to help them move on. 

Improved communication

When there is rapport between a coach and a client, they communicate better, sharing their thoughts and feelings more effectively. 

They are also able to listen to each other more attentively.

For instance, your client may have specific tics or habits depending on their feelings. You’ll pick up more easily on their non-verbal communication and understand what they’re saying.

Increased motivation

Once a client feels connected to their coach, they are more likely to be motivated to achieve their goals. 

This is because they know that their coach believes in them and is there to support them along the way.

When the going gets tough, they can reassure themselves by remembering they have you in their corner!

Increased satisfaction

Clients who have a strong rapport with their coach are more likely to be satisfied with the coaching process. They feel like they are getting the most out of their coaching sessions and are making progress toward their goals.

Of course, rapport building doesn’t replace coaching excellence. Even the most charismatic coach will fail if they have little to no coaching skills. 

But if you can understand and motivate your clients by building rapport, you’ll increase their chance of success!

How to Build Rapport with Clients: 6 Effective Techniques

Now that you understand why rapport matters with your clients, here are five effective techniques to help you build a strong rapport with every single client you book!

1. Understand your client’s needs

To establish a strong bond and create an effective coaching plan, gaining insights into your client’s goals and challenges is crucial.

This goes beyond simply knowing what they want to achieve; it also means recognizing the obstacles standing in their way.

The better you understand your client’s needs, the more effectively you can tailor your coaching approach to meet those needs!

This way, you can provide personalized advice and strategies that resonate with them on a deeper level.

Consider using tools like client onboarding processes to help you gather important information about each client right from the start of your relationship.

  1. What do they hope to achieve through coaching?
  2. What obstacles have they encountered to this point?
  3. How committed are they to reaching their goals?

For example, whenever I’m coaching a client for their email marketing strategies, I don’t just want to know the business details. I want to understand:

  • Why are their goals so important to them at this point in time?
  • What else have they tried, and why does this particular approach matter now?
  • What is the consequence of failure?

This helps me get to know them as a person, not just a business owner!

In addition, regularly check in with clients throughout the coaching process. Ask for feedback and make adjustments as necessary based on their responses.

You can even use Paperbell to automate this process. For instance, you can set up automatic questionnaires and forms to send out after every single session:

building rapport with clients

You might use questions such as:

  • Are there any areas where we could focus more?
  • Are our sessions helping you progress toward your goal?
  • Is there anything else I can do to support you better?

But you can tailor your questions to fit your coaching niche as well.

2. Tailor your approach based on their needs

A one-size-fits-all strategy usually isn’t effective in coaching because everyone has unique aspirations, backgrounds, talents, and challenges

Therefore, tailoring your methods according to each person’s specific requirements will show them that you’ve taken the time to listen and understand them.

For instance, if someone has issues dealing with stress, then incorporating mindfulness exercises into their sessions would be beneficial. 

Similarly, if someone is looking for career advancement, then providing guidance around networking skills or CV improvement could work wonders.

In my own business, I can tailor my sessions depending on what a client struggles with the most. I won’t spend two hours providing feedback on their subject lines if they struggle with writing a call to action!

3. Establish trust

The cornerstone of any successful coaching relationship is trust. 

As a life coach, you’ve got to build a safe space where clients can open up without fearing your judgment.

  • Honesty is the best policy. Lay out the details for your clients – what they should anticipate, how long it could take, and the dedication that will be necessary. No sugarcoating allowed.
  • Reliability is key. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Be on time, keep your promises, and respect boundaries. Be there when you say you will. Don’t bail unless it’s an emergency.
  • Be consistent in your approach. Show up, communicate regularly, and stick to your plan. 

Remember, trust takes time. Be patient with your clients as they open up. 

4. Listen actively

The art of active listening is a vital skill for coaches who want to build rapport with their clients. 

Psychology Today explains that active listening creates deeper connections by making the speaker feel valued and heard. It’s like giving them a warm hug through your ears.

To practice active listening:

  • Avoid interrupting your client. 
  • Show interest with verbal affirmations like “I see” or a simple nod. 
  • Paraphrase or summarize what you’ve understood. 
  • Ask further questions to keep the dialogue going. 

Non-verbal cues matter too. Maintain eye contact (if face-to-face) and keep an open body posture.

If you’re coaching via Zoom, eliminate distractions. Give your client the spotlight they deserve.

For instance, make sure to turn off notifications on your phone.

Your dedication to active listening will foster stronger bonds over time, building a bridge of trust, one conversation at a time.

5. Show empathy

Empathy is your secret weapon in life coaching. 

It’s not merely about understanding your clients – it’s about identifying with them and making sure they don’t feel isolated.

Empathy can be tricky, especially when dealing with unfamiliar situations or emotions. But remember: empathy isn’t about sharing experiences; it’s about sharing emotions. 

Here’s how you can show empathy to your clients:

  • Acknowledge their feelings: Let your clients know their feelings are valid and understood. Saying things like “I get why you feel that way” or “That sounds tough” shows acceptance and understanding.
  • Reflect their emotion back at them: Repeat what your clients say using different words to confirm you’ve understood their feelings.
  • Show genuine concern: If a client shares something distressing, don’t shy away from expressing concern for how they’re feeling. Authenticity is key – insincere sympathy does more harm than good.
  • Validate without judgment: Remember, as a life coach, it’s not your job to judge your clients, but rather to support them on their journey. Validating without judgment is an essential skill every coach should master.

The bottom line? Empathy builds trust. 

When people feel heard and understood by someone who genuinely cares for their well-being, they’re much more likely to open up further – leading to deeper insights into how you can best help them as a coach.

6. Ask questions

Asking questions matters to get your clients thinking, but it can also help you build rapport.

Through these rapport-building questions, you unlock the secret vault of your client’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. 

This skill of questioning goes beyond being a nosy detective; it shows the client that you’re genuinely interested in their story and value their unique perspective. 

Take note that these questions aren’t meant to grill your clients for details. They’re conversation starters that create a safe space for exploration and build trust. 

Each question is like a key that unlocks deeper insights and strengthens the bond between you and your client.

Sample questions to use

Here are some examples of questions that can help you build a coaching connection:

  • What other times have you felt like this?
  • How would you define success in this particular area?
  • What approaches have you previously attempted to address this issue? Have there been notable failures or successful strategies?
  • How open are you to making significant changes in order to solve this problem or achieve your goal?
  • If you had the ability to make any changes you want tomorrow, what would you want to be different?
  • How does this compare to your last (situation, relationship, job, business, etc)
  • How does this make you feel?

Mastering the art of asking effective coaching questions not only improves communication with clients but also sets the stage for their personal growth. 

So next time you meet a new client, don’t be shy to dive deep into insightful conversations using these powerful queries. 

Your genuine interest and curiosity will undoubtedly strengthen the bond you share and lead to successful outcomes.

Other Tips to Build Rapport with Clients

  • Be patient. It takes time to build rapport, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen overnight. Just keep being genuine, interested, and supportive, and eventually, you’ll build a strong connection with your clients.
  • Sharing personal stories can also help to build rapport. When you share your own experiences, it shows that you are relatable and that you understand what your client is going through. For instance, I like to share my own personal failures in email marketing whenever providing feedback to a client on their emails.
  • Be genuine and authentic. People can spot a fake a mile away, so it’s important to be yourself when building rapport with your clients.
  • Mirroring is a powerful technique for building rapport. When you mirror someone’s body language, tone of voice, and word choice, it sends a subconscious signal that you are on their wavelength.
  • Be positive and encouraging. People are more likely to open up to someone who is positive and supportive.
  • Be respectful and non-judgmental. Everyone has their own unique story, so it’s important to be respectful of your clients’ experiences and perspectives.


Can building rapport take time? How long does it usually take?

Building rapport is a process that varies for each client. While some clients may establish a connection quickly, others might require more time to feel comfortable and open up. 

Patience and consistency in building rapport are key. Nothing can replace that.

How can I maintain rapport with clients over time?

Maintaining rapport requires ongoing effort. Regularly check in with clients, stay updated on their progress and challenges, and continue showing empathy and support. 

Consistency, trustworthiness, and a genuine interest in their well-being are crucial for sustaining rapport.

What if there are challenges or conflicts in the coach-client relationship?

Challenges and conflicts can arise in any relationship, including the coach-client dynamic. 

When this happens, address conflicts openly and honestly, seeking understanding and finding mutually agreeable solutions. Maintain open lines of communication and adapt your coaching approach as needed.

How can I adapt my approach to building rapport with clients from diverse backgrounds or cultures?

Building rapport with clients from diverse backgrounds involves being culturally sensitive and aware. 

Take the time to educate yourself about their culture, values, and communication styles. Avoid making assumptions and strive to understand their unique perspectives. 

But above all… Show respect, curiosity, and a willingness to learn from their experiences.

Become a Successful Coach By Building Rapport with Clients

By building rapport with clients, you can create transformative coaching experiences that empower your clients to thrive and reach their fullest potential.

By following these tips and techniques, you can create a strong foundation for a successful coaching relationship (and business!).

Building rapport may take time, and it can be difficult to think about every single client at once.

With Paperbell, you don’t have to! Automate the admin tasks, like following up for appointment reminders, and use your time wisely to truly connect with every client instead.

You can try it today by claiming your free account!

building rapport with clients

By Charlene Boutin
Charlene is an email marketing and content strategy coach for small business owners and freelancers. Over the past 5 years, she has helped and coached 50+ small business owners to increase their traffic with blog content and grow their email subscribers.
August 2, 2023

Are You Undercharging?

Find Out In This Free Report

Ever wondered exactly what other coaches are offering, and ​for how much? Find out if you’re charging too much or too ​little by benchmarking your own rates with this free report.

Subscribe to our updates for instant access: