Questions are a very powerful tool to build rapport and trust with clients and referral sources. Questions are naturally the basic means of learning about the person you are forming a relationship with. Posing questions is how information and commonalities are discovered which then become the brick and mortar foundation for the relationship. Ask questions of the person you are talking to whether they are existing clients, new clients or referral sources. As a general rule, people love to talk about themselves. Studies have shown that if you engage a person whom you have just met in a conversation of a personal nature, they will begin to feel a rapport with you after approximately twelve minutes. That’s how long they take to warm up to you and begin to trust you – so be patient with this process.
Types of personal questions to ask:
- Ask people about their lives; what’s important to them and why? Be curious without being intrusive.
- Are they married; do they have children; what are their names; how old are they?
- What are their hobbies or sports interests?
- Where did they go to college?
Business-related questions can also be used for more than just gathering information. They build rapport – especially when you solicit feedback and advice on your practice as we suggest below. Most individuals that you ask questions of will be flattered that you asked their opinions.
We recommend that you engage referral sources in interviews about the practice of law and their past experience when dealing with lawyers. To see and hear firsthand the opinions and experiences of your referral sources and clientele, go out and interview three to five people who fall into these categories.
The conversation might start out like this:
“I’m curious. I’m always in the process of enhancing my practice and would appreciate your opinion on something.”
- What are your three top frustrations when dealing with lawyers?
- Why do these frustrate you?
- Tell me about those things that lawyers have done in the past that made you decide never to go back to them, or refer people to them.
- If you were to get outstanding service from a lawyer – how would you describe it?
If you listen, they will tell you what type of lawyer they enjoy working with and what type they don’t. They will tell you things they are not revealing to any other attorney.
In other words, they will reveal their expectations. If you can meet or exceed their expectations, they will gladly return to your firm, or refer prospective clients to you again and again.