People do business with people they like and trust. Investors give money to people they like and trust. Face it, likability is a critical decision making factor, whether you are trying to raise money or close a deal. Being good at what you do is obviously important, but being liked by your colleagues and clients is just as important. If you’re not perceived as likeable, people are going to be less likely to do business with you, which can have negative consequences for your company.
In order to do a better job of building and keeping solid business and professional relationships, you need to work at it. Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, offers these 10 tips to be more likeable in business:
1. Master the BLT factor. In this case, BLT stands for believability, likeability and trustworthiness. Cultivate a reputation that embodies these three key traits. “When clients decide with whom to do business, they ask themselves, ‘Is Todd capable of the work and will I enjoy working with him?’ When we need help getting a job done, we most likely choose a congenial person over a more capable but less cordial one.”
2. Show empathy. The struggles and triumphs of your life affect how well you empathize with others and their challenges. Empathy doesn’t require you to agree with someone else’s opinion, however. You can politely agree to disagree while you thoughtfully consider his or her feelings, Whitmore explains. “Respect others and try to find common ground. A shared experience can form an instant bond.”
3. Be reliable. Entrepreneurs who are consistent and dependable will win contracts and develop long-term professional relationships, Whitmore stresses. “Your clients need to know they can count on you to deliver the work reliably. Do your job well and people will begin to see you as consistent and trustworthy.”
4. Tell the truth. It sounds easy until you’re late on a project and over-budget, says Whitmore. “Integrity has become a rare trait in the business world. All relationships require honesty but professionalism is rooted in your personal integrity. Always use your best judgment and be transparent with those you interact with.”
5. Ask questions. Show sincere curiosity in the lives of others by asking open-ended questions that begin with, “Tell me… .” Then really listen to the answer. You’ll discover more about your clients, colleagues and friends through effective listening, says Whitmore. Your genuine interest will earn you respect and appreciation.
6. Have an open mind. When you judge others harshly you invite negativity into your own life. Consider the opinions of others before you reject them based on your preconceived notions, cautions Whitmore. “When you show others that you’re open, accepting, and kind, you’ll attract more opportunities.”
7. Show engagement. Your body language speaks louder than your words. Some gestures, such as crossing your arms or putting your hands in your pockets, can make you appear withdrawn from a situation. When you talk to someone, open up. Make consistent eye contact, smile and nod occasionally.
8. Master the first impression. It may sound cliché, but first impressions do matter in forming business relationships. To make a great first impression, show your professionalism and character, advises Whitmore. “Dress to impress by wearing clothes that fit well and are in good condition. When you greet someone, introduce yourself and give a firm handshake.”
9. Share the limelight. It’s wonderful to be recognized for your achievements and hard work, but don’t forget to thank those who helped you along the way, says Whitmore. “Publicly recognize employees and partners who have worked tirelessly next to you.”
10. Remember names. This simple, yet powerful, gesture makes others feel valued and respected. Plus it can help you build a large network, Whitmore explains. “Deliberately practice remembering names when you meet new connections. It takes a bit of time and effort, but remembering someone’s name can make the difference in how that person feels about you and your brand.”