The Science of Likeability



Hi! Welcome to this week’s training. I’m Sherri Wilson and I train and empower entrepreneurs and business owners in the art of persuasion and influence to communicate your message confidently and create the life and business you love.

It is better to be likable than to be talented.
— Utah Phillips

Today I want to talk about how to get your clients coming back for more or the science of likeability!

We are social beings and hard wired to seek out others from birth. I remember years ago learning about an orphanage in the 50’s, I believe, that was alarmed at the death rate of their infants. They refused to eat, cried all of the time, and failed to thrive eventually dying for no apparent medical reason. Finally, someone came up with the idea that maybe these babies were dying because of a lack of physical touch and cuddling. Sure enough, once they began to purposefully love on these babies, they began to thrive. 

Poll after poll and study after study show that more and more people feel isolated and have difficulty forming long-lasting meaningful relationships. Some believe it’s the digital world we live in now. Most communication is done on devices instead of in person. In fact, most millennials prefer to communicate through texting instead of a phone call or in person. 

Since 93% of communication is non-verbal using body language and facial expressions, many no longer are able to read non-verbalism and pick up on the required social cues needed for successful communication. Throw in fear of embarrassment, past rejection, bad impressions, being used and taken advantage of and other negative experiences and you have a unique challenge but also opportunity to truly connect with your clients. 

You're Not Talking to the "Present" Person

Before I teach you how to increase likeability, I want to state one more thing: When you’re interacting with your client, you’re not communicating with the “present” person but the PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE PERSON.

I.e. all the past experiences—good or bad—create perceptions that can harm or hurt communication. You have the present expectations your client is seeking from you as well as the impression they’re gathering “on the fly” as you’re interacting. Thrown into that mix is an underlying future desire your client wants to achieve. 


Remember this statement from Simon T. Bailey, a consultant to businesses like Wal-mart, Chick-Fi-Le, Olive Garden, and more: “CUSTOMER SERVICE IS DEAD. PLATINUM TOUCH AND CUSTOMER LOVE IS AN EXPERIENCE.”

Answer These Questions

 Ok. Now I’m going to share my “secret sauce” that I use with all my clients and businesses. First, it starts with a series of questions to shape your perception of your clients and your interactions with them.

1.    How do you see your client as your guest? 

2.    How do you personalize the experience?

3.    How do you anticipate their needs?

4.    How do you respond immediately with appropriate service?

5.    And how do you inspire loyalty?

Let’s tackle number 1: seeing your client as your guest.

I love this shift of mindset. I mean just think about it. A guest is given priority. We offer them a drink and/or food. We give them the best seat. It’s intimate and personal because a guest is often entertained in our home. 

For those who rent my event venue, I treat them as my guests and call them that in all of my emails and any written communication. I have a little sack with some chocolate inside because chocolate releases endorphins and a handwritten note thanking them for being my guest. I put the clean up list with Internet password in a convenient place and tell them to make themselves at home.  

Number 2: Personalize your client’s experience.

Likable leaders truly believe that everyone, regardless of rank or ability, is worth their time and attention. They make everyone feel valuable because they believe that everyone is valuable.
— Travis Bradberry

The sweetest thing a person can experience is their name and recognition. In my emails and written communication, I use their first name even if the rest of my email is a template. I try to use their name in conversation as well. I do this not just with my clients but everywhere.

With my event venue, I have a pretty chalkboard sign I set outside that welcomes my client and their guests by the name of the one who reserved the venue. I then have another chalkboard sign inside the venue that offers congratulations for whatever event their celebrating. 

I also try to take a peek at my client’s FB to gather some common ground information and use that in my thank you note. Saturday, I quoted my client’s life motto that was on her FB page and told her I really liked it. 

All of this is recognition, which is simply acknowledging their value as a person. 

Number 3: Anticipate their needs.

Are things convenient for them? Is there as little fuss as possible when they use your product or service? 

A great way to anticipate your client’s needs is to ask for your friends, family, and current clients to use your product or service and give you feedback on ways it can be easier to use and meet their needs best. I do this with every single course I create and live event I conduct. 

My main “secret sauce” in this area is really listening to what my client is saying and seeing how I can address his or her needs. Often I uncover an unknown underlying need or problem that my client has no idea about but once I reveal it, they realize that’s been the actual problem all along! People pay a lot of money for others to solve their problems. If you can not only solve problems but uncover the real problems, it’s golden!

Number 4: Respond immediately with appropriate service.

Have you ever been told, “I’ll check into that and call you?” or “I’ll get that ordered and call you when it’s here” only to never be called?  

Responding as you go and following up is a MUST in business. Not keeping your word and following through is a definite deal breaker for some and the problem is they’ll never tell you. They’ll just go somewhere else. 

And, finally, number 5: Keep them loyal.

Research has revealed that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust even if that person offers a lower quality product or service! 

So let’s get to the crux of people coming back for more. First, if you do all of the above, you’ll create loyalty. Now I want to get into some science. 

The Science of Likeability

Remember this: The smile was the original social media meaning simply smiling got you followers! 

When you smile, you release endorphins, the feel good hormone, in both your client and yourself. Smiling is a sign of happiness. Only 1 in 10 can fake happiness. 

And what’s crazy is your client’s brain looks for friend signals to feel safe. There are 3 signals:

When you smile, you don’t only appear to be more likable and courteous, you appear to be more competent.
— Ron Gutman

1.    The eyebrow flash. It’s a slight up and down movement that lasts 1/6 of a second when you greet some you like. The brain looks for this!

2.    Head tilt. This is a slight tilting of the head exposing the carotid artery. It’s a very STRONG friend signal because exposing your carotid artery to another signals that you feel safe and so they’ll feel safe. 

3.    And, finally, the genuine smile, which feels natural, lifts the cheeks, and produces wrinkles around the eyes. Beware of flashing fake smiles. Your client’s brain will pick up on it and alert her to not trust you.

My good friend’s family owns a carwash. Every time I go there, there’s a man that always smiles. And I like him a lot! I look for him now. The closest thing to a conversation we’ve had is flashing thumbs up signals to each other. If he ever leaves the carwash, I’ll miss him. Why? Because he’s always smiling!

Here’s a weird fact: People who get Botox can’t smile or be expressive for about 3 months. In my research on likeability, I came across some research that said family members and friends have complained that the one who received Botox doesn’t like them anymore or is not as friendly. In fact, women who have had regular treatments have unintentionally hurt their marriages! Husbands no longer felt loved and some even considered divorce! 

Here are a few more tips:

1.    The more people see you, the more they like you. Using video and/or your picture in your emails as much as possible increases likeability and keeps them coming back. Keep the videos short and include a tip or valuable information. I usually put the transcript below for those who prefer reading.

2.    Be genuinely interested in your client and use head nods, gestures, and facial expressions while interacting. You want people to feel good about themselves because if you make them feel good, they’ll seek you out to feel good again. 

3.    Use the law of common ground. People automatically think people think like they do. Sports, people you both know, music, hobbies, occupation are all areas you can try to find common ground. 

4.    The law of humor. Laughing is one of the best ways to release endorphins. Before each of my events, I tell a joke. Unfortunately, I have to put it in its entirety in my notes or I mess it up and it’s no longer funny! But even reading it off cracks people up. 

5.    The law of novelty. Science tells us that the brain thrives on new things and is drawn to those who are involved in those new things. This is a key to keeping your marriage strong by the way. Instead of meeting your client at the office as usual, suggest meeting at a new location or outside. Outside is a great idea because being outdoors also releases endorphins. 

6.    Physical touch. The more you touch people (appropriately) with a nice handshake, back pat or shoulder touch, the more people like you.

Sherri Wilson