There's a fundamental rule of business that states: "People do business with people they know, like and trust." But is there something else at play that no one else is talking about? How important is it to be "liked" in business? 

After reading this article, you might argue that the rule should be: "People do business with people they know, trust, and are PERSUADED BY."

In Robert Cialdinis' book, Influence, he discusses an experiment conducted by Professor and Psychologist Dennis Regan.

In the experiment, two subjects and Regan gathered in a room to evaluate the quality of some paintings as part of an art appreciation experiment. One of the subjects (Joe, they called him) however, was only posing as a subject, and was actually Dr. Regan's assistant. During a short break in the experiment, Joe left the room briefly, and then returned shortly after.

In scenario #1, Joe returned with two Coca-Colas. One for the subject, and one for himself. 

In scenario #2, Joe returned empty handed.

After all the paintings had been rated, the experimenter left the room momentarily, and Joe asked the subject to do HIM a favor. He told the subject he was selling raffle tickets for a new car, and if he sold the most tickets he would win a $50 prize.

Regan's first finding was subjects that were given a Coke during the experiment purchased TWICE as many tickets as those that weren't given a Coke. I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that these subjects bought more tickets, but DOUBLE the number of tickets is certainly noteworthy. 

Regan also wanted to know how Joe's likability effected the subject's decision to buy raffle tickets. In other words, did the subjects buy raffle tickets only because they liked Joe, or because they felt INDEBTED to him. So Regan asked the subjects to fill out a questionnaire to determine how much they liked Joe. 

Not surprisingly, there WAS a correlation between how much the subject liked Joe and how many tickets they bought. 

BUT, for the people that WERE given the Coke, it didn't matter how much they liked or disliked Joe. In fact, the people that indicated they did NOT like Joe, bought just as many raffle tickets as those that indicated they DID like Joe.

In the end, it is certainly better to be liked than disliked by your customers or prospects. But if you can find a way to "persuade" your audience in a genuine and professional manor, it might help you achieve your goals more quickly than just being likable. 

What are some ways to "persuade" customers?

  • Take your customer to lunch
  • Send a customer their favorite bottle of whiskey for their birthday
  • Bring your customer donuts or bagels for breakfast
  • Send your customer a lead
  • Send your customer a gift card to their favorite restaurant

(Note: I put persuade in quotations because it might carry some negative connotations. But if your persuasion tactics are used for the mutual benefit of both your customer and your business, then there is nothing wrong with it).

What are some ways that you persuade customers or prospects to do business with your company?

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Brad Telker
Vice President of Commercial Sales at cfm Distributors, Inc.

Brad joined the cfm team in 2006, and now as the Vice President of Commercial Sales, he focuses on business development, as well as helping contractors and engineers find creative and unique solutions to any size project. When he’s not at work, Brad enjoys photography, running and spending time with his family.