People respond to and naturally like people that like them. People don't have to be alike to like each other; they only have to detect that they are liked. In order to like someone, you must first know them. In some cases we don't like a person's actions in certain situations, but we like the person on the whole. The likable characters that did despicable things on Jerry Seinfeld's long-running situation comedy are examples.
"Knowing" someone is more important than the specifics of the relationship. In business, every customer subconsciously gives the command, "Show me you know me. If you ‘show me you know me,’ then I'll know you like me." The unspoken philosophy is you wouldn't take the time to know me if you didn't like me.
At first blush, the notion of learning to like someone may seem contrived or artificial to you. Do we like someone just because we know and understand them? You may be thinking, "I do not care about truly liking my customers, I just want to do business with them. Liking the customer is just an act. I just want their money. I have plenty of friends. Do I need to like this guy just because he is a customer?"
Nothing in this world is inherently interesting. For example, do you play an instrument? Do you remember when you first began music lessons? There was nothing interesting about playing that instrument: your hands were uncomfortable and it sounded awful. You'd rather have been doing something else but someone made you practice. After a little while, practicing became more comfortable and there was a trace of a tune starting to emerge. As you toiled away week after week, month after month, you began to enjoy playing that instrument. As you became more accomplished, playing the instrument began to become interesting. It became fun and challenging. Today, even though you haven't touched that instrument in years, you look back with fond memories. You think, "Playing music was fascinating."
Maybe you didn't play an instrument, and even if you did, this may not be a totally accurate reflection of your experience; however, the point is little or nothing in this world is interesting until you get involved. Growing champion roses, collecting stamps, watching NFL games, motor boating, gourmet cooking, and a million other things are not interesting until we invest some time to learn about them.
Most of us won't jump up and down with excitement at the thought of learning to like someone. But much like playing the piano, if we invest a little time, we will find our interest increasing with our accomplishment. The reason we don't like someone is typically because we don't know them. Liking the people we do business with isn't artificial; it is the most natural thing in the world if we learn about them.
Joey is an inside sales executive for a major research corporation. Joey conducts all of his business by telephone and rarely meets with his customers in person. Joey primarily calls on "C" level executives. His clients are usually chief executive officers, chief financial officers, or chief information officers. These high-level executives are usually very busy and can be difficult to reach. Most of these people have a gatekeeper to run interception on salespeople, such as Joey, who attempt to call on them.
One of Joey's prospects was an executive at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Joey had tried to call this executive several times but never got through to speak to him. He left messages but his calls were never returned. Joey had called on this executive so many times that he was on a first-name basis with the gatekeeper.
One day while making yet another attempt, Joey learned that the gatekeeper would not be in to work for a few days. He asked her if she would be out on business or pleasure. She told him she was taking a few days off to plant a garden. As they chatted for a few minutes, Joey learned how much the gatekeeper enjoyed vegetable gardening. My friend told her about the Heirloom Tomato Company, which distributes tomato seeds that produce tomatoes that taste like they came out of your grandfather's garden.
The gatekeeper had not heard about Heirloom, but she was very interested. Joey told her that he had half a package of seeds left over from his garden and would send the package to her. After she received the seeds, Joey never had any trouble reaching the executive or having him return his calls. Joey demonstrated he knew the gatekeeper and followed up on what he said he would do. The gatekeeper felt recognized as a person of importance and demonstrated her authority. A dollar's worth of seeds became worth thousands of dollars in business.
Harlow Edwards left the military service at the end of World War II. He went to work for a life insurance company that also offered health indemnification policies. The indemnification policies paid $10 a day if the insured was hospitalized. Back in the late 1940s, the cost for this coverage was only a few dollars a month.
Harlow called on veterans returning home after the war. He established a goal of having 750 clients. In his first couple of years in business he wasn't truly interested in how much money he made: He was more interested in achieving his goal of 750 clients.
Harlow made sales calls and explained the benefits of life insurance. More often than not his prospect didn't buy any life insurance at all. But just before Harlow left his prospect he would stop at the door and say, "You'd buy a little bit just to be friendly, wouldn't you?" Harlow would then write up orders for the indemnification policy on the prospect and his family. During his first three years in the insurance business, Harlow sold 750 policies. The polices were written for newborn babies, housewives, husbands, and anybody else who may have been in the room. At the end of three years, Harlow declared he would never prospect again. He had identified his entire universe of clients.
Over the next 40 years Harlow socialized with every one of his policyholders at least once a year. In the early years Harlow and his wife invited policyholders to their home for potluck suppers and card games. As business improved, Harlow had a swimming pool built in his backyard where he continued to entertain his policyholders. Harlow and his wife took clients to dinners, movies, concerts, and the theater. Never prospecting but always maintaining social mobility with his universe of policyholders.
As his clients matured and prospered, Harlow was their insurance agent. Babies grew up and became professionals, teachers, business owners, and captains of industry. Harlow had known them since birth and was the person they turned to for help with their insurance.
Harlow had sold 750 policies to 250 families. He socialized with each of these families and knew dates of birth, graduation dates, anniversaries, and everyone's name. Harlow knew his customers and he made them feel important. He liked them and they knew and liked him in return. His customers knew him, but more importantly, they understood that Harlow knew them. Harlow made a fortune in the insurance business. Harlow was KUHL.