1. Be yourself. Much of the popular literature on how to find a mate, make friends, and influence people recommends doing things that don’t match the “real you.” In my seminars, I’ve argued that if you attract people by being what you’re not—if you’re phoney—it won’t be much of a relationship. Many times we complain that people don’t know the real us. Whose fault is that? Your customers and your friends can’t read minds. In order to start the positive reciprocity, it’s up to you to reveal something about yourself to others. What we’re talking about here is sincerity. There’s a cynical saying in old-style selling that if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made! If you’re not sincere, people generally know it. By revealing little things about yourself that don’t make you look perfect, you come across as a normal person with normal flaws, and you show your sincerity.
2. Treat people differently to get along equally well. The Driver, Influencer, Steady, and Conscientious (DiSC) personality classification is very popular in the business world. Among psychologists, the accepted major personality variables are somewhat similar. The “Big 5″ are: Extroversion / Introversion, Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. These personality traits have been found to be far more comprehensive and psychologically valid than other personality systems.
Whatever personality classification system you prefer, the lesson is to adjust your behavior to match individuals’ styles. Type A’s, who talk fast, get impatient if you don’t get to the point soon enough. Type B’s, who like a slower pace, get nervous around Type A’s. For instance, if you’re a “fast-talking New Yorker,” you won’t be trusted in the South, and vice versa—at least not on first meeting. If you match your customer’s or prospect’s style, the relationship will go smoother—especially in the early stages.
3. Reinforce others. Our basic biology makes us respond positively to things that help our survival. When we’re safe, we feel good. When we’re in danger, we feel bad. Honest compliments are fine, but flattery is an old-selling way to make people feel good. And most prospects are too wise for simplistic flattery to work.
Some prospects reason that the more you’ve invested in the relationship with them (reinforced them), the less likely you are to abandon them when they need you. Prospects figure that if you’re not persistent when you want their business, you may not be around when you have it. Another way to put this is to give first, before you expect to get anything. You have to look for creative opportunities to do things for people that are meaningful to them.
Your job in marketing is to give people reasons to let a relationship develop. What’s in it for them? Your ezine is a good tool here.
4. Find similarities in personal or business areas. This is some of the oldest common sense advice, supported by hundred of studies by psychologists such as Donn Byrne. While different people can get along well because they complement each other, research is overwhelming that similarity leads to liking. People feel safer if you have things in common with them. Especially if you share values, they can understand you better, and predict your decisions. If you share friends in common, you are less likely to exploit them because the word will spread to others. This is why referrals provide extra leverage for you—because they provide extra safety for prospects.One system of persuasion that is popular—neurolinguistic programming (NLP)— trains you to mirror people in tone, pacing, and body language. This form of similarity could be effective, but there is not much detailed research evidence to support it and its manipulative in spirit.
5. Ask questions and listen more than you talk. One way to reinforce people is to show interest in what they say. One way to show your knowledge and value is to ask good questions about their businesses. A cautionary note: Occasionally, I’ve been asked questions by individuals who have probably been told that this is a good way to get along with people. Sometimes it feels more like a prisoner-of-war interrogation. They ask one question after another, but never give me reciprocal information. Or they launch into a series of questions without either telling me why they’re asking, or without getting “permission.”
6. Repeated exposure. In the 1970s, I was about the fifth most-published expert on the effects of repeated exposure on liking (it was a small area)!
In one experiment, we tested the effects of seeing people varying numbers of times. People “accidently” saw each other a different number of times as they were doing another experiment. In general, the participants most liked the people they saw the most frequently. In other words, the more you see something, the more you like it—and that includes people.
When you stay in contact with people, they will come to like you more, unless you are negatively reinforcing them. This frequency effect can even override the fairly powerful effect of physical attractiveness discussed next.
7. Attractive people are liked more. Unfair as it may be, physically attractive people tend to be liked more. Research has shown that good looks provide benefits in many contexts. For instance, if you’re ever arrested, the jury is less likely to find you guilty if you’re better looking than average. And physically attractive people are perceived to be more intelligent. Now, most of us aren’t going to invest in plastic surgery to improve our looks. But, we can all dress well and be well groomed.
8. Send “stuff” that interests them. I read a lot, so I frequently come across items about others’ interests, companies, or industries. It’s relatively easy to pop an article in an envelope and mail it off. Most people appreciate the gesture, primarily because it shows that you’re thinking about them, and secondly, because sometimes the material is of value. For instance, clippings on golf that they likely wouldn’t have seen may be appropriate.
The more you know about each person’s interests—personal and business—the easier it will be to find items that hit the mark. This leads to the next item.
9. Be smarter—use a system to keep track of information. First, you have to collect information about your golfers. Then you have to remember it. Fortunately, any of us can be a genius at remembering information by using a database. Even a paper-and-pencil system, reviewed before each contact, can suffice if you’re phobic about computers.
10. Use golf and other leisure activities. Leisure settings are a great place to build relationships. You already start with golf as a common interest.
11. Show a sense of humor. Research shows that people like people who have a sense of humor. Having a sense of humor doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes. It means you aren’t grim about life. You have a wry way of looking at the world and yourself. You use a little self-deprecating humor, especially if you’re high status. People feel better after being around you, not worse. So spread a little cheer today. Research shows it’s contagious!
12. Look for reciprocity. Relationships are like conversations: People take turns. Relationships are built from a two-way flow of reinforcement. The rhythm of responsiveness between two parties is as important in relationship building as in a conversation. If you don’t respond to friendly overtures, you will break the rhythm. If customers don’t respond to yours, they may be unhappy about the relationship or resisting its start.
Relationships become more intimate by back-and-forth stages. In order to move the relationship forward, someone has to take a risk and disclose more of themselves, or do more, than the immediate relationship warrants. In practice, this can be simple. If your conversations start as strictly business, add a more personal comment. Others will respond if they are in tune with you.
A related way to improve relationships is to move to a different locale. If you only see someone at your course, your relationship is one dimensional. Take the initiative to invite them to the local coffee shop, a ball game, or a party. You’ll see another side of them and advance the relationship.