I know that there are still voices suggesting that sales has changed, that relationships don’t matter, that you are being measured only by the value you create as measured by economic outcomes. There are some who suggest that you need not be likable to win deals, you need only create greater value.
This is largely incorrect, as it leaves out the fact that you are now a very large part of the value proposition, as well as eliminating the high probability that there are others who create equal or greater value without being unlikable. But before you decide whether or not it matters that you are likable, let’s look at what might make you unlikable.
You are self-oriented: Here is the biggest thing you might do that makes you unlikable: you are selfish. You project that what is important to you is you, that you are not other-oriented. The more you make people believe that any deal is about you before it is about them, these same people will look elsewhere for a solution. Human beings are not rational; they rationalize.
You are not a good listener: The very best way to make sure people know that you don’t care about them is to refuse to listen. It’s tough for people to like people who won’t listen and who have to dominate a conversation. There are people who are exceptionally good at listening, and they generate strong feelings in others because they give them the gift of their attention.
You are a challenging personality: There is no value in being a person that is difficult to get along with. A person who chooses conflict over collaboration because they lack skillful abilities to dialog opens the door to a competitor who is easier to get along with. Those who deal with difficult conversations don’t create additional friction unnecessarily.
Your values are misaligned: Fit is a big deal. Are you one of us? Do you share our values? Can you operate in line with what we believe to be good and right and true? When you don’t fit, you don’t fit. Who you are matters more than what you know and what you do.
You don’t value other people’s opinions: One reason people will have trouble liking you is that your opinions are so strong—and expressed as if they are a final truth—that you leave no room for anyone else’s thoughts, ideas, or opinions. Being arrogant and making other people feel bad about themselves makes one unlikable. If you have to be the smartest person in the room, if you need to be right, then you are not going to be liked, and others who are better at valuing others will easily flank you.
You are no fun to be around: To work with you, I have to imagine what that will be like throughout our interactions. Then I have to project myself into the future and determine what that experience is going to be like once I buy from you. If I don’t like working with you now, I am going to have a tough time committing to a long-term relationship where I have to deal with you over a long period of time. Least of all, I will not want to be contractually obligated to do so.
No matter how much value you create, if your prospective client is going to have to work with you for a period of time, they are going to make the decision to buy from you in part on how willing they are to work with you.
Whenever you read anything that suggests one thing is more important than some other thing, recognize that you are being provided with a false dichotomy, a mutually-exclusive choice. Most decisions are multi-factorial, and that means that a lot of things are important, and many variations may be acceptable or unacceptable. More still, you may create great value and be unlikeable while a competitor creates equal value and is someone that people want to do business with.