John, an experienced CPA, was about to meet with a high-net-worth prospective client. John had persuaded the wealthy business owner to stop by his office to discuss his business needs. After a few minutes of chatting about trivialities, they both sat around a small conference table facing each other.

As they talked, the prospect leaned back in his chair as if relaxing. While John realized that the prospective client was relaxed, he still wished the client would show a little more interest and enthusiasm. He seemed almost disinterested. John felt himself consciously trying harder to make an emotional connection and ended up speaking faster and in a disjointed manner. He leaned even farther forward and felt perspiration beading on his forehead. He was losing control of the interview and the potential engagement.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Have you wished you were able to generate rapport and trust more quickly? Once you gain someone’s trust, he will accept almost anything you recommend.

But it takes years to develop that kind of trust. You haven’t got years to convince a new client that you are trustworthy. You need that business now.

Rapport

To gain trust, you first must establish rapport. Rapport will not necessarily come from a broad smile or talking football for a few introductory minutes. Although finding common social interests may be important, there is a quicker and more effective way. 

Frank Triolo, an enormously successful CPA/financial advisor in Appleton, Wis., gains engagements from nearly 100 percent of the prospective clients he sees. How does he do it? He mirrors every nuance of the client’s posture. When a client enters his office, Frank watches how she stands and then mirrors her posture. If the client crosses his legs when sitting, Frank does the same. If he leans forward, Frank follows. This really makes a lot of sense. People tend to mirror those they trust. They avoid those they distrust.

Your first response may be that this seems manipulative. Yes, it can be if done dishonestly. Ethical practitioners don’t manipulate. But they do strive to communicate more effectively. The successful advisors I have observed mirror so elegantly, it’s impossible to spot. They do it to gain higher levels of rapport and trust, not to manipulate. They first match the client’s initial body posture. When the client moves to a new position, the peak-performing CPA will wait 20 to 30 seconds and slowly mirror the new position.

Mirroring

Dennis Renter, a successful CPA/financial planner in Newport Beach, Calif., takes the mirroring concept one step further. He uses a technique called “leading” to cause people to be more responsive. He will first match and mirror his client’s body cues until he feels rapport has been generated. He will then lead them into increased interest by moving forward in his chair. If the person has enough rapport with Dennis, he will follow Dennis, mirroring the same position.

If the high-net-worth client mirrors you back, you have gained a high level of trust.

If you want to gain rapport more quickly, mirror the person you are talking to. People tend to trust others when rapport exists. That rapport occurs not only in body posture, but also in voice qualities, which we’ll discuss in next month’s column.

For more from Kerry Johnson, see:

Are Social Security seminars in your future?

11 key hiring questions you should ask

The DIP program: How to gain control of your business