Robert B. Cialdini is a pivotal thought leader on the psychology and science of persuasion. His research and theories on the topic of human interaction have influenced people from all walks of life, but they have resonated particularly with those in the business world. Cialdini has written about many different facets of human persuasion, but he says the most fundamental of these is likeability.

Cultivating Likeability

People like people who like them back. Likeability isn’t something that yes-men or fake people have; it’s something that engaging, friendly, charismatic people have. Some people are naturally likeable, just like some people actually have naturally blonde hair. Others have to work at it.

In the business world — and the real world, obviously — likeability goes a long way. It is the key to getting people on your side and interested in making investments in you and your company. Developing likeability has a lot in common with junior high crushes; your likeability can’t develop if you aren’t on the other person’s radar; show interest in your investors and they will show interest in you.

Of course, showing an interest in someone can be done in a lot of ways, many of which are creepy or just tiresome. Don’t be annoying or cloying! If it isn’t an attractive quality in a date, it’s not an attractive quality in a potential business associate. Think about what drove you to approach your prospective investors or customers — a shared business interest. Chat about it, and become friends.

Friends Can Persuade More Easily Than Strangers

Only some people can make it in the sales world, whether they sell T-shirts on a tourist island or high-value computer software to international CEOs. What sets these people apart from the rest of us? Customers almost always want to be their friend. You’ve probably met some of these people — and they sold you something. To convince your investors to sponsor your business proposals, be like that friendly salesperson you remember!

Cialdini offers this advice to connect with your associates and customers:

“Uncover real similarities and offer genuine praise.”

Only by establishing a quality dialogue with another person can you earn trust and friendship. Not sure that business associates need to consider you a friend? Think again. Friends can persuade their friends to spend money much more easily than a stranger can.

The sales tactics of a telemarketer are no good when large amounts of money are involved. Following a sales script and pounding the number pad over and over may work for a lawn-care company, but it won’t work for an unknown startup CEO. Imagine it:

“Hello Mr. Dunham, I hope you are having a great afternoon. I am calling to offer you the opportunity to invest in my new company, GlobeTech. We just need a few thousand more dollars to get the business off the ground!”

Yeah, that’s not going to work. So what’s the bottom line?

You need to find investors and customers who can understand you and your product. These people are susceptible to your persuasion.

Do some research to find your ideal buyers and investors; this will make it much easier for them to understand, like and invest in you. Think about how a working relationship will be beneficial for both parties, and explain it to your associates.

The science of persuasion is all about likeability, but the key to likeability is simple — choose like-minded people as your investors and customers.