Building Trust and Rapport page

Best practices for building trust and rapport with clients.

A large part of being successful as a consultant is building trust and rapport with your client. If a client trusts and likes you, you will gain influence. The more influence you have, the easier it will be to impact key decisions at key moments.


Trust is someone’s confidence in or reliance on you to get the job done. Trust is earned over time, and easily lost. Ultimately, delivering what you promised, on-time and on-budget, is the best way to increase trust. On a perfect project, that’s easy. But in reality, projects rarely run that smooth. The following strategies are ways to boost the trust on a project when things aren’t perfect.

Communicate effectively and set expectations appropriately

Fortunately, clients understand that things aren’t always perfect. But as technology consultants, it’s up to us to communicate problems, questions, and concerns to clients. When you are up front and honest with clients, it builds trust that you are doing the right thing. Similarly, it’s important to set expectations so you can meet them. A client will trust you more if you regularly deliver early vs being consistently late.

These are so important they have their own trainings!

Remember that you share common goals

When consultants are added to a project, it’s common for an "us vs them" mentality to develop. This can lead to conflict and reduced trust, especially amongst client peers that may not understand why you’re there. It’s important to communicate early and often to the team that you share common goals. Refer to the Engagement Summary Document that was created at the start of the project to refresh on the product’s goals.

Speak up about things that employees are silent about

Employees are often operating in fear. Fear of stepping on someone’s toes, getting reprimanded or fired, saying the wrong thing and feeling embarrassed, etc.

Be courageous and speak out openly about the problems you see that stand in the way of success. Organizational problems, dogmatic process, bad UX, etc. Of course be polite and respectful, but don’t be afraid to say what’s wrong.

In the process of speaking honestly, clients tend to develop more and more trust in you, since you’re providing rare insights.

For the Bitovians refreshing their consulting skills: Bitovi will never fire an employee for speaking truth to power, so take advantage of it!


All consultants should have rapport with their clients - a relationship of trust and respect. Building trust is a key component of this, but it’s also important that your client enjoys working with you. The following strategies can help build and improve your relationship with your client.

Face time

It’s 10x easier to build rapport in person than it is over the Internet. We’ve found that meeting a person in the first weeks of a project makes the rest of the project go smoother. Find a way to meet in person whenever possible, especially for critical points in a project’s lifecycle (e.g. the start of a project).

If you find yourself unable to meet in person, make time to have one-on-one’s on a consistent interval, like once every one or two weeks. We have also found just reaching out for a second opinion leads to an increase in trust in you and your work output.

Non-work bonding time

When meeting with clients, use the opportunity to get to know the person outside work.

  • If remote, use the quiet time at the beginning of meetings to ask about their day. Small talk exists for a reason!
  • In person, ask them to go to lunch, dinner, drinks, or coffee, just to get to know them. While you’re there, try to learn 3 things about them not at all related to their career. Write it down and share it with others on your team.

Don’t force it

It takes a lot of work build and maintain a healthy working relationship. The first step was closing the deal, now you need to focus on raising trust and likeability and not losing it. Just care about your client and what interests them, and don’t force it. Trying to force trust and rapport can actually cause the opposite effect.

Be playful to get what you want

When bureaucratic red tape stands in the way of progress, don’t take no for an answer. Humor can often be a way to be persistent without being annoying. For example, Justin loves to talk about the time he jokingly told a manager (who claimed it would take 4 weeks to get a dev server) that he would send an email to Steve Jobs asking him if he thought 4 weeks was an appropriate amount of time. Soon after, he got his dev server.

Using humor in situations where you’re feeling frustrated and incredulous is often an effective way to get what you want while not making people hate you.

Bring snacks and swag

When traveling to a client location, bring swag and buy some snacks and bring them both into the office.

Other ideas

  • Don’t forgot about being polite. "Hello", "Goodbye", "Good morning", "See you tomorrow" all go a long way in increasing the frequency of pleasant interactions.
  • Pay close attention to hints of birthdays, weekend plans, kids, or things you might have in common. Anything that closes that gap between consultant and client increases likability and trust.
  • Tuckman’s stages of group development