Let’s face it: Everyone wants to be liked. For the sales profession in particular, so much can hinge on your relationship with customers. Personalities and our interpersonal communication can either help or hinder getting that deal signed or growing the connections with customers or prospects.

The science behind likability is fascinating because many people think of it as this fixed, innate thing that they can’t control. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We all have the ability to make ourselves more likable, and there’s a growing body of research that shows it is something people can affect and change. Here are the three major ways to become more likable — whether it’s in a sales meeting or in your own personal life.

One of the first things to do is find commonality. Researcher Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University found that people spend more money with those they like, and that when we find things in common, we tend to like each other more. But the commonality has to be clearly unique to have power. If you and I both like breathing oxygen, well, that’s not creating much commonality. Most vibrant people like breathing oxygen.

It may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s better to discover the “uncommon commonalities.” Maybe you’ll find that you went to the same epic rock concert 30 years ago. (That RATT show was amazing!) Or you both grew up with or have the same breed of dogs. (You have a Dutch Shepherd, too?) If you can unearth these types of shared experiences, all of a sudden you can be in a meaningful and connected conversation. As a sales rep, customers will not only remember you but want to engage willingly. They won’t see your calendar invite as the drudgery of sitting through another sales call. Stuck with a relationship and can’t seem to break through? Commonality is the key to unlocking a friend.

Any healthy relationship must have balance. Adam Grant of Wharton found that the deepest relationships aren’t just with people who help us. That’s only a first step. It also comes down to how we help them. Children are a perfect example: We have these incredible bonds because we are always there for them and want to help make their lives the best possible, even when they don’t put away their toys.

In sales, we place an incredible emphasis on being helpful to a client, and that’s critical. But we also need to ask for help because it will deepen our relationship. It feels great from the buyer’s position that their knowledge or expertise is valued — and it gives you, the sale rep, a chance to circle back and say thank you.

The “mere exposure effect” is one of the most studied psychological principles ever, with research that started back in 1876. In a nutshell, the theory says that the more we see something, the more we tend to like it. It’s all about familiarity. In sales, there couldn’t be a more 1-to-1 correlation. You have to stay top of mind with a customer. We have to be continually helpful (and seek out that help as just discussed) with a certain cadence of frequency. You can’t go completely dark for months and then drop back in when you’ve got a new offering with a spiffy new 72-page PowerPoint, complete with your company’s mission and values upfront and three case studies at the end. If you stay in touch and keep the relationship on an upward trajectory, you’ll achieve your end goal of being even more likable. Most sales reps focus on the quality of interactions. That matters, but science shows quantity matters, too. Invest and invest often.

It’s easy to spend time primarily on your opportunities, popping around to the hot lead in your pipeline and letting unrelated relationships wane. It’s human nature, and there’s more pressure than ever to close more deals and close them yesterday. The best sales reps add a second focus: relationships. And the key to relationships? Likability. A few great opportunities can make your year, but a few great relationships can make your career.

We all have the ability to make ourselves more likable, and there’s a growing body of research that shows it is something people can affect and change.”

Mo Bunnell | Founder and CEO of Bunnell Idea Group
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