Being a nice person certainly helps when cultivating business relationships, but it takes more than a warm smile to curry the favor of prospects. Likable people possess certain traits you can adopt to make yourself more endearing to those you hope will become your next client. But don’t underestimate others’ ability to pick up on feigned sincerity and genuineness.
Emotional intelligence—comprising skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management—is not only innate but can, in fact, be taught and developed, according to research by Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Bradberry has developed an emotional intelligence test, which reveals specific areas users need to work on. “Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice—and making certain they’re positive—will draw people to you like ants to a picnic,” Bradberry says. “Our research shows that people who possess these skills outperform those who don’t by a large margin.”
You know that watching your body language and being aware of your facial expressions will have an impact on the quality of the connection you strive to make with new clients. Go deeper to truly become more likable with these eight tips on emotional validation (which are backed up by scientific research).
- Say the prospect’s name repeatedly throughout the conversation. “A person’s name is, to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” writes author Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Make a habit of starting and ending conversations using a potential client’s name, such as: “It’s nice to see you, Jane,” or “It was nice talking with you, Jane.” When you say a person’s name, you demonstrate both interest and respect for them.
- Give them the floor to speak first. Encourage your prospects to tell you about themselves and their situation before you tell them about yourself. Research has shown that when people talk about themselves, it creates neurological changes in the brain that can make them more receptive to your message. “Once those feel-good neurotransmitters are flowing and people start feeling connected to you, they’re much more likely to take you and your contributions seriously,” Bradberry says.
- Mirror their body language. It’s often done unconsciously, but try to subtly adopt the posture, gestures, or vocal qualities of the person you’re speaking with. When two people mirror each other’s body language, it often means a bond has been formed. For example, if your prospect leans her head to the side as she’s talking, try doing the same. “It’s a sign that the conversation is going well and that the other party is receptive to your message,” Bradberry says. “This can be especially useful when you’re negotiating because it shows you what the other person is really thinking about the deal.” But don’t make it obvious you’re copying other’s body language; it can make them suspicious, researchers say.
- Don’t focus on proving your competence. You may think gaining trust is about showing people your knowledge of the market and that you “know your stuff” as a real estate professional. The truth is that smarts and talent often are secondary to emotional cues in clients’ eyes. Others can perceive you as manipulative if you stress your competence before establishing warmth and trustworthiness, according to a study by a Harvard Business School researcher. Instead, make time for chit-chat, and focus on finding something you have in common with a prospect. When two people find common ground, they begin to like each other by gut instinct, researchers note. You’re drawn to those who share similar interests to you, and those similarities help you build a powerful bond with one another.
- Offer a favor that won’t immediately increase your bottom line. Listen carefully for the problems your prospects need solutions to—whether it’s related to real estate or not—and think of a quick favor you could do for them (that doesn’t require anything in exchange) to help them and add value to your relationship, says Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Perhaps you could recommend or get an estimate from a handyman or painter for a prospect who’s struggling with a renovation. Though it’s related to real estate, such a favor is not linked to an immediate business need of yours, so it appears more good-natured. Salespeople who use this giving approach earn 68 percent more revenue than those who take, i.e. put their own ambitions first, according to research in Grant’s book. (Find out more about how the power of giving is good for your business.)
- Ask questions that require a longer, thoughtful response. Open-ended questions or questions asking for clarification show the prospect that you’re listening and you care about their responses. If you mostly ask simple “yes” or “no” questions, on the other hand, it shows you’re only interested in need-to-know information that will lead to a sale quickly. “People like to know you’re listening,” Bradberry says. “You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.”
- Show you have interests outside of real estate. Being absorbed with one topic area can make you appear uninteresting. “Likable people balance their passion for their work with their ability to have fun,” Bradberry says. “At work, they are serious yet friendly. They still get things done because they are socially effective in short amounts of time, and they capitalize on valuable social moments. They focus on having meaningful interactions with their coworkers, remembering what people said to them yesterday or last week, which shows people that they are just as important to them as their work is.”
- Validate people’s complaints. You don’t have to agree with everything another person says, but making others feel heard and understood will make you more approachable. If a prospect or coworker complains, say, “I’m sorry—I can only imagine how you feel.” Such validation is a powerful way to build a connection, Bradberry says. It gives the other person a sense of empowerment and tells them you’re a nonjudgmental person they can work with. “Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace, where approachability means access to new ideas and help,” he says.
Take a critical look at your interactions. How do others really perceive you? “Most of us are putting the blinders on and not taking a look at the things we need to change because we think it isn’t going to do us any good,” Bradberry says. “The trick is to practice self-awareness to the point where you recognize your insincerity in a conversation. Then you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.”