Here’s a hot business tip: you’re more likely to agree to do business with someone if you like them as a person.
While that may seem like common sense, a lot of in-depth research has been conducted in the field of social psychology on this subject. Exploring why we gravitate towards people we like, both professionally and personally.
Dr Robert B. Cialdini’s seminal work, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” has significantly contributed to our knowledge of the unseen forces behind human interaction and decision-making.
One of the principles of persuasion he discusses is the liking principle—the simple yet potent idea that we are more likely to be influenced by those we like.
But what does it mean to be likable? And how can you make use of the liking principle for business?
Defining the Liking Principle
The liking principle revolves around the simple idea that we are more likely to be persuaded by people we like or feel a connection with.
At its core, the principle is about finding common ground, building rapport, and showing genuine interest in the other person—which in turn, increases the likelihood of quickly coming to an agreement.
A key element of this principle is finding common ground. When we share interests, values, or even just hobbies with someone else, we are more inclined to like them, and as a result, are more likely to be swayed by their ideas or suggestions.
The liking principle taps into many unconscious factors, making it a subtle yet powerful tool for persuasion. For instance, physical attractiveness, social proof, and other intangible factors play a part in how much others like you.
Cialdini expands on the concept of liking as not just a friendly feeling but a powerful tool of influence.
Using the Liking Principle in Business
Harnessing the liking principle in business situations can lead to fruitful negotiations and increased sales. Here are some strategies to help you succeed.
Before you dive into a negotiation or a sales pitch, it’s a good idea to spend some time building a rapport with the other party.
For example, if your potential client shares your interest in golf, try sharing your own experience with the sport to create a connection. If you don’t play golf, find an element of the sport you are also drawn to—the community, mental focus, being outdoors, etc.
In a sales situation, you can (and should) build a rapport by genuinely inquiring about your customer’s needs and preferences.
Find Common Ground
During negotiations, focus on finding common ground to foster a sense of camaraderie. Once you find a mutual goal, emphasizing your shared desire to achieve it can build liking and make the atmosphere more collaborative.
While trying to make a sale, laying that foundation could mean sharing how a product or service aligns with the customer’s values or meets their specific needs. For example, a salesperson at a car dealership might emphasize a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and eco-friendly features to a customer concerned about environmental impact.
Give Compliments and Positive Acknowledgement
Offering sincere compliments and acknowledging the other party’s achievements or stance can also evoke the Liking Principle. For instance, a negotiator could commend the other party for their company’s recent sustainability initiatives.
In sales, acknowledging a customer’s smart choice or good taste can foster a positive interaction. As an example, you may get a positive response by complimenting a customer’s knowledge about the latest smartphones when they’re looking to make an upgrade.
Focus On Your Physical Appearance and Professionalism
While it is superficial, looking presentable and maintaining a professional demeanor can also play into the Liking Principle. A neatly dressed salesperson might be perceived as more likable compared to someone who appears disheveled. If someone puts time and effort into their appearance, it’s not a huge mental leap to assume they will be equally committed in other areas.
You don’t have to be ready for the runway— wearing clean clothing and practicing good personal hygiene goes a long way.
Establish Social Proof
Sharing testimonials or references from satisfied customers can also leverage the Liking Principle, as it offers proof there are many other people who like and trust your company. Providing references from happy partners can build trust and liking.
Through these techniques, the Liking Principle can be tactically used to build relationships, create a favorable environment for negotiations, and enhance sales efforts.
Use the Principle Ethically
Much like the reciprocity principle, it’s important to remember not to abuse the liking principle to negatively influence or take advantage of others.
Using the principles of persuasion ethically fosters trust and helps to build a good reputation. When you’re seen as honest and trustworthy, you’re more likely to develop positive relationships and enjoy the long-term success that comes from them.
Conversely, by behaving unethically, you can damage your reputation in a way that may be impossible to repair. People aren’t quick to forgive those who have wronged and manipulated them.
Make sure to develop your connections with others through genuine interactions and avoid manipulative, exploitative behavior.
No matter what benefits you may get from a negotiation or sales pitch built on a lie, remember that the person on the other end of that interaction is a real person, not just a number on a spreadsheet, and act accordingly.
Unlocking Success through Likeability
The liking principle, as explored by Robert Cialdini, unveils how our likability affects our ability to influence others. When used ethically, it can help build trust, foster positive relationships, and even boost sales or successful negotiations in the business world.
By finding common hobbies or values, offering sincere compliments, or just being genuine and respectful, we can create a friendly atmosphere that makes others more open to our ideas or proposals.
However, it’s crucial to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Being ethical in how we use the liking principle means being honest, transparent, and respectful towards others, rather than manipulating them for personal gain.
Through ethical practice, the liking principle can be a beneficial tool in creating positive outcomes in both personal and professional settings.