The Likability Factor

For better or worse, the sales process is not much more than a popularity contest. Do you have what it takes to win?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Do your potential clients like you? Do they perceive you as likable--and I mean really likable?

If they don't, none of the rest of your efforts to establish yourself as the answer to their problems will matter. When you get right down to it, life is a series of popularity contests. You may not want to admit it or believe it. In fact, you've probably been told it ain't so, but ultimately, if you're well liked, then you're more likely to be better in sales.

Mark McCormack, the late founder of International Management Group, a powerful sports management and marketing company based in Cleveland, once said, "All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend." If a potential client perceives you as the most credible and likable, you'll probably get the sale­--even if you aren't the candidate with the most experience or expertise.

Super likable guy and author Tim Sanders puts it this way: "To make choices, we go through a three-step process. First, we listen to something out of a field of opportunities. Then, we either do or do not believe what we've heard. Finally, we put a value on what we've heard. Then, we make our choice."

With so many demands on your clients' attention these days, they have to filter and carefully select what they are going to pay attention to. This is why becoming and establishing yourself as a (highly likable) category authority is so important. Your potential clients need a reason to deem your message important enough to sit up and listen to it. If you're likable, you've got a better shot at capturing their attention. And, they are far more likely to remember what they've heard.

Capture your clients' attention when you convey:

  • Confidence. Humble, quiet confidence is just plain attractive and makes others feel at ease.
  • Intrigue. Lean into greetings, make eye contact and prepare short conversational bits to eliminate awkward silences.
  • Interest in others. Say less and ask more questions. Then show you were listening.
  • Enthusiasm. Pull out your genuine enjoyment for others and always be willing to laugh at yourself.
  • Respect. Be well intentioned, well mannered and share compliments generously.

Once you have their attention, they'll begin to listen and hear what you have to offer. But will they believe what they're hearing? This is where credibility comes into play. With so many advertising messages coming at us from every direction each day--spam e-mail, radio and TV commercials and infomercials, to name a few--we've become highly skeptical of much of what we hear. If you're credible, you're much more likely to be believed.

The fact is, you are more likely to trust and believe the people you like. When you like the source of a message, you typically trust it. Or, at least, find a way to believe it.

Your likability has an enormous impact on your perceived value. Develop your credibility, establish yourself as an expert, strive to be your most likable self and you'll quickly become the best and most obvious choice for clients to buy from.

Michael Port is a New York Times bestselling author of four books: Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and his latest, The Think Big Manifesto. Learn more at

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