What is the First Thing You Should Do When You Meet a New or Prospective Client?

Business Leader Post, February 20, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Most people would answer, “Establish rapport.” They would be correct, but only partially so. The fuller answer is to have empathy, which is a couple of notches deeper than rapport and more impactful. Empathy is tricky. You cannot fake it. If you are thinking about how the relationship is developing versus listening carefully to the prospective client’s concerns and wishes, s/he will know it.

The skill set for establishing rapport or projecting a level of empathy is having the capacity to listen. Most people listen for a relatively short period of time and then start to mentally form a response or “rebuttal” before the person has finished his or her thought. The key to developing the skill of listening is to determine, as you listen, an additional question that will help you understand the context in which the person is describing his or her situation. A simple intervention can be to repeat what the person told you to ensure that you understood what s/he said. The first step in establishing an empathetic framework is for an individual to feel understood.