ABC’s “Shark Tank” has become a guide on how entrepreneurs should approach venture capitalists for funding. But a couple of episodes showed that money isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all in business for some. Beverly Vines-Haines and Charlotte Clary are the inventors of a sugar-free candy called Ice Chips. The ladies thought one of the sharks, Kevin O’Leary, was difficult to work with and, frankly, not a very nice person. The two grandmothers ultimately accepted a less-favorable economic deal from another shark, Daymond John, based solely on their perception of him being much easier to work with.
Likability is an important trait for business owners when measuring their overall success. Rohit Bhargava, the author of the book “Likeonomics,” told Entrepreneur magazine, that likability supersedes competence when it comes to business decision-making and overall success. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg had the highest ranking in likability among 50 CEOs recently reviewed by Glassdoor.com. It is no coincidence Glassdoor also ranked Facebook as the best place to work out of 50 large companies, based on employee feedback.
The same can be said for customers and their experiences. When all else is relatively equal, a customer is more likely to come back to a restaurant that had friendly employees and good service, than one with excellent food, and rude waiters. Many politicians are elected not because of their positions on social and economic issues, but because they are perceived as likable. Your likability as a business owner can be the primary difference between success and failure. There are similar traits likable people in business possess that all entrepreneurs should take into consideration:
Let Them Talk
The 80s new wave pop band Missing Person made the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982 with the song “Words.” Its hook was “what are words for…when no one listens anymore?” Ask open-ended questions to clients and customers, so they can talk about themselves. You can gracefully relate things about your own life and experiences as the conversation progresses. Make sure you are looking them in the eye as they talk, as this shows you are listening and that you respect them.
There is a fine line between being humble and being fake. Even hardcore businessmen like Brian Ferdinand of Liquid Holdings and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will tell you their success is the product of balancing risk with humility. The best way to stay humble is to cease comparing yourself to others. You can only be the best you, and that is all you can control.
The only reason Bill Clinton (despite the Lewinsky scandal) is still widely regarded as a likable figure throughout the world is because of the way he speaks to people. There are several accounts of the first meeting between Clinton and another widely-respected man, former South African President Nelson Mandela, in the 1990s. Both men took a step towards one another to commence the hand shake, while leaning slightly forward (almost as if to bow slightly). Neither man wanted to come off as better than the other, and this attitude will win the hearts even of those who pre-judge you.
People universally like someone who smiles, makes eye contact, empathizes and doesn’t talk too much. You can guarantee your business will have the best chance of success by embracing these traits in yourself.