Every now and then, someone will give you a piece of advice that hits your brain like a lightning bolt.
It happened for me when I was preparing for an interview and my former co-founder Bjorn said “When you’re doing sales, find a way to like the person you are speaking to”.
Instantly I understood what had been niggling me about sales techniques — at a fundamental level I had been feeling somehow dishonest.
The reams of articles on building rapport overwhelmingly focus on teaching you to be better at giving the appearance of someone who is interested. But I’ve realized if you’re genuinely intrigued by the person you are speaking to, the behaviours they recommend, such as “matching and mirroring” take care of themselves.
More importantly, if any part of your behaviour is pure pretence, adopted in order to manipulate, there’s a strong chance something in your tone, expression, choice of words or body language will give the game away. No one likes being taken for a fool.
If you’re not interested in the person you are speaking to, as opposed to what they can give you, they won’t be interested in you
So how do you take a genuine interest in someone very different from yourself? Many people find this hard. The much vaunted connectivity of social media has reinforced our tendency to focus on people with the same beliefs and opinions as ourselves and to follow news reported with our preferred bias. If you are living in a ‘progressive’ cocoon, for example, how are you equipped to interact positively with a religious conservative?
The answer is — you work at it. You decide to learn from the person. You research them, you find out what is interesting about them, what they could teach you, and how you can help them. Without doing anything else, you have laid the foundation for a productive relationship.