Softly Does It! – Building Stronger Rapport and Relationships Quickly in an Audit Engagement (Original Publication Date 07/09/2017)

In a perfect world we would have all the time we need to build up relationships with our clients.

But the world is not perfect and in some roles you need to at least have a rapport with your clients, and be on the way to building a relationship, almost instantly.

Ever been to a restaurant and felt an instant connection with your waitress? Do you always go through the same register at the supermarket just because you like the operator?

There are times that you feel you actually know these people, feel comfortable talking to them and are happy to say hello if you see them outside their work environment.

If you have experienced this at any time then congratulations, you have had an encounter with someone who has mastered the soft skills of communication and relationship building and use them very well!

What are soft skills?

Hard skills are traditionally easier to identify than soft skills. Hard skill are job related and easy to measure, for example if you were working as a Lawyer you would have certain qualifications and experience that can be proven and evaluated.

Soft skills are usually thought of as skills that there is no traditional way to measure and can include:

• Communication
• Team Work
• Social Skills
• Active Listening
• Relationship Building

One way of looking at it is that your soft skills are your unique selling points, everyone who wants to be a lawyer completes the same classes and gets the same qualifications, what is it that makes you different, what gives you that competitive edge to make you stand out?

This is usually the soft skills you have developed through different life experiences. For some they come naturally, but they can also be learnt. Sometimes all it takes is a small change to the way you do things.

Good Relationships
Relationship building is considered an important step in creating a happy and productive workplace.

Think of your own employment. The roles you have where there is at least one person you consider to be a friend you find yourself feeling better about going to work.

You feel that there is someone who actually gets you, you have someone to vent to when things go wrong and someone to share good news with.

What would you expect to find in a good relationship?
When looking at what you want out of a good business relationship it is best to make comparisons with your personal relationships. If you were going to be spending a large amount of time with someone, and let’s face it – sadly we often spend more time with colleagues than we do our own families, what would be on your wish list? It might include things like:

Someone you can be open and honest with

Having to keep up an appearance, or play a certain character just to fit in, can be exhausting! You want to be able to be yourself, or at least as much of yourself as your role allows. When you start to learn how to read people you can tell if someone isn’t being themselves. You start to wonder what it is they are trying to hide and it can make you not trust them. You are more likely to trust someone if you feel like you know who they are, you’re also happier to do business with them.

Someone who takes responsibility for their actions and words

We all know that one person who nothing is ever their fault. There is always a something or someone else to blame. Do you ever really trust them? Having someone who is willing to come out and say they made a mistake and they are prepared to fix it gives you a bit more confidence when dealing with them. We know that no one is perfect, so good or bad, own it, it’s not that hard!

Open Communication
Good relationships depend on open and honest communications

An example for this one will probably be one the ladies will relate to more – if you are out shopping with friends and you try on clothes you want them to be honest and tell you if something looks terrible. You don’t want someone who is only going to tell you want they think you want to hear, especially in business, you want someone who feels comfortable speaking the truth.

Mutual Respect
Someone who values your ideas and opinions, as you do theirs

Before someone can feel comfortable speaking the truth they first need to be confident that they can speak up at all. Knowing that they can actually have a say, and that their opinion is valued and considered, goes a long way to building trust and respect in the relationship.

No relationship, business or personal, works if it is all one sided. A good relationship includes discussion, compromises and being able to come to a mutual agreement, everyone might not like the outcome but if they feel like they had some input things can go smoother.

Relationship Building in Audit Engagements
When conducting an audit your goal is to get the information you need to make an informed decision on what is really happening in the business area you are auditing.

Files and reports can only tell you so much. To find out what is really happening you need to talk to the people who are actually doing the job every day. They are the ones who know if the documented work instructions are being followed, if the instructions are right or if there is a better way to do it.

Knowing how to build a rapport quickly can help get the information easier, and possibly help you find out more than you would otherwise.

Please note: The above article is not intended for use as standalone audit advice. For an individual review of the audit and compliance requirements for your business please contact KLM Audit & Compliance ( )

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