16 Rapport Building Tools for Coaches

How do you get a complete stranger to confide in you during a discovery session?

One of my first discovery sessions was with an older man in failing health.

We didn’t have much in common.

But I still managed to create massive rapport with him

…which was essential to engage him in deep coaching.

He shared his dreams and his challenges…

…his deepest fears of inadequacy…

…and by the end of the call, he was sobbing.

The rapport we developed was essential for that coaching session.

The result?

He enrolled in my year-long coaching program.

Then he worked with me for a second year…

The few thousand dollars he spent with me turned into tens of thousands.”

The few thousand dollars he spent with me turned into tens of thousands.

But more importantly…

…he developed the strength to overcome the adversities that were keeping him from achieving his goals.

From the time your clients were 18 months old…

…they were taught not to trust strangers.

Trust Strangers

You might have amazing coaching skills, and powerful questions to ask…

But unless you have rapport

people will never notice your deep coaching wisdom.

…and you definitely won’t change your client’s life in a single discovery session.

By the way…

That client didn’t enroll with me immediately.

It wasn’t until 6 months after his discovery session that he finally signed up for coaching.

Most coaches expect that if you don’t enroll someone immediately after a free session, they’ll never enroll with you

…and, statistically, that’s true.

But not with him…

6 months after his free session, why didn’t he just forget about coaching?

Because he remembered our session.

That session already guided him to make changes in his life.

That session was unforgettable for him.

That session already guided him to make changes in his life.

That session was unforgettable for him.


Because we connected.

My client knew that I deeply cared.

And so he trusted me.

That is rapport.

Use these rapport-building tools in your coaching (especially in discovery sessions)…

  1. Smile. People can tell you’re smiling even on the phone.
  2. Be on time… especially for the first meeting. Clients can take it personally if you’re unprepared, or late.
  3. Vigilantly watch your own judgment. As soon as your client feels judged by you, it’s an instant rapport breaker. Accept your client wherever they are.
  4. Match your client’s voice quality. It causes a subtle comfort and rapport (don’t overdo this or it gets obnoxious). This includes volume, tone, pace, etc.
  5. Tap into hot button words that have intense meaning or emotion for your clients. Use those words to deepen connection and rapport.
  6. Don’t make the coaching session about you. Don’t tell your life story. Don’t try to get your client to ‘be like you’. Don’t invest your self-esteem in the session’s outcome. You’re likely breaking rapport.
  7. Have positive regard for your client. See your client as a unique soul that you care about unconditionally, and truly want to help.
  8. Contribute to your client without expectations of getting anything in return. If the coaching relationship is purely transactional, you’ll likely lose rapport. If you wouldn’t coach this client for free, don’t coach them at all.
  9. Get over your nerves or anxiety prior to sessions. Any nerves will act as a barrier between you and your client (or be awkward at best). The best way to avoid feeling nervous is to focus on serving your client.
  10. You can create instant trust with your client as soon as you find common interests. This could include beliefs, hobbies or experiences. The primary common interest you should have with your client IS YOUR CLIENT.
  11. Be genuinely curious to learn about your client. Ask questions to gain understanding about what your client is telling you. This shows them you care.
  12. Be careful with over-giving advice, especially when your client isn’t that interested. (HINT: Your client is less interested in your advice than you think.)
  13. Acknowledge, support and cheerlead your client at every opportunity. Almost all your clients will love this, as most of them are starved for a simple pat on the back.
  14. Show your client you know who they are by telling them what you understand about them. Let them verify or correct you if needed. When you can describe your client better than they can, they will automatically assume you can help them.
  15. Restate what your client says to show that you hear them.
  16. Be 100% PRESENT with your client during the session. If you’re muting them, arguing with your kids in the background, driving, eating, or otherwise distracted, you’re showing that client how unimportant they are to you.
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Special techniques to build rapport in face to face or video sessions:

  • Beyond eye contact…watch your client’s face. Their inner world is found in their facial expressions.
  • Mirror your client’s body language. It causes unconscious rapport to develop beneath the surface conversation. This includes posture, gestures, and facial expressions.
  • Make sure your visual presentation reflects your client’s aspirations for who they want to become. Be a visual role model for them. If you’re working with entrepreneurs, look like a successful entrepreneur yourself.

My personal favorites for building rapport:

  • Acknowledge your client’s strengths as you discover them. Find their superpower and share it with them.
  • Pace your client’s reality. Sincerely align with their beliefs, values, and ideas as much as possible.
  • Put yourself in a confident, inspiring state of mind, and know you have everything you need to help your client move forward.

What exactly does creating rapport do?

It establishes you as a leader.

It creates an open space so you can understand your client and their needs.

Most people have never experienced someone truly listening – and accepting them…

…and being heard in this way provides massive value.

You must master rapport building

…for people to like you and trust you as a coach…

…to create depth in a coaching relationship…

…and to transform your client’s life forever.

Colette “Connect Before Coaching” Coiner

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