Likability and The Referral Process

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Likability is perhaps the most essential component of networking and the referral process.  The most current networking paradigm is Know/Like/Trust/Refer.  The starting point is KNOW.  It has been said that it isn’t what you know but who you know that is important.  It is not only who you know, but who knows you and exactly what you do that begins the process.  People get to know you from your “elevator speech” and talking with you.  The next step is critical, because if people don’t like you then the process stalls.

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Likability has many components.  What are the main things that make someone likable?  First of all, they have a positive outlook and demeanor.  Secondly, they are good listeners and genuinely interested in others.  They pay attention and remember the important things about others so that they can build on conversations.  For example, let’s say you meet someone, ask they what they are doing in the summer.  They tell you that they are taking their son Bobby on a college tour in the Northwest United States.  You listen intently and then the next time you see them in the fall, you can ask them how the college tour went, and if Bobby has decided on a college.

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Another component of likability is finding things in common with others, and their openness and willingness to capitalize on any commonalities.  Likable people are congenial and like to have fun.  You can share a laugh with them or find common ground easily.  They tend to be flexible and agreeable.

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On the flip side are people who are not likable.  Some characteristics are being argumentative, confrontational, egotistical, boastful, selfish, rigid, complaining and dominating conversations.  Unlikable people tend to be negative and critical.  You can’t really teach people to be likable, but you can alert them to the characteristics to avoid.

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Likable people tend to be respectful of others regardless of their respective age, position or status.  They are reliable and do what they say they are going to do.  This behavior is consistent over time, and not just an act they put on to get people to like them.

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Likability is often something that is assessed almost immediately upon meeting another person.  It is a function of being genuine in your encounters with others.  Call people by name.  Though that may seem trivial, calling people by name has a significant impact on interpersonal relationships.

Nonverbal communication also has a major effect on likability and perception.  Eye contact is very important, and it makes others feel that you are truly focussed on them.  Body language can also send important messages to others.  For example, if you cross your arms when someone is presenting a new idea to you, it can be perceived as being resistant or negative.

It has been said that it isn’t what you say but how you say it that is most important.  The phrases “I know what you mean”, “I really hear you”, “I am there for you” and “I’m okay with that” can have a variety of meanings depending on exactly how they are stated.

Likable people are more likely to achieve success, especially if their likability is coupled with competence.  Therefore, the third component in the paradigm, TRUST follows LIKE.  If you and what you do are known by others, if you are likable, then your capabilities will be considered in order for people to refer you or make strategic introductions.

How then do you know if you are likable?  It is fairly simple.  If people want to associate with you, you have a lot of friends and associates, and you get an abundance of referrals, then you are probably likable.  If that is the case, keep doing what you are doing.  If not, then ask people for honest feedback about what roadblocks might be in place.  Keep smiling, keep listening and stay positive.

Showing Up: The True Constant in Networking

You have to show up!  Some people think that they can be successful in networking by merely using social media and going to networking meetings and social events periodically.  In reality, in order to be a truly effective networker, you have to SHOW UP, and show up consistently.  Using social media to augment face to face networking is fine, but there is no substitute for showing up consistently.  People tend to have short memories, and you will not be front of mind if your attendance at networking meetings is sporadic.  There is a concept in psychology called Primacy and Recency.  Simply stated, we often remember the first person we meet who does a particular thing like family law.  If over time we meet a number of family law attorneys, and the first one we met no longer shows up, we tend to remember the one who we met most recently.

Therefore, it really helps to not only be the first person of a particular category, but also to be front of mind by continuing to show up.  Social media and newsletters allow us to remain memorable in the absence of face to face encounters.  So if we go on an extended vacation, we can remain front of mind through the use of social media and newsletters.  It is the combination of face to face meetings and social media that enhance our visibility and memorability.

I have repeatedly observed people who join a networking group with good intentions, show up for awhile, and then their attendance lags.  The people who become regular attendees are the ones who are remembered and who end up with the referrals and strategic introductions.  Years ago someone said to me, “Everyone knows you and what you do.  You don’t need to keep showing up.”  The reality is that if you stop showing up, their memory will fade.

In order to be maximally effective in business networking, it is best to use a combination of in person networking and social media.  Meeting in person allows you to make a live connection, and social media gives you the opportunity to widen your network geographically.  Though social media has a number of very specific usages and benefits, in person networking (SHOWING UP) is the true constant in networking.

Beyond merely showing up, it is vital to get involved and volunteer to assume leadership positions if at all possible.  People who volunteer raise their profile and get noticed.  Additionally, by getting involved you provide a work sample and motivation to others to make referrals and introductions.  There is no doubt that people who volunteer to join committees and boards of directors get more benefit than those who sit on the sidelines.  Getting involved usually means that you are GIVING, and not merely sitting back and expecting to receive.  People who not only get involved but give referrals, make introductions and provided trusted advice are the ones who receive benefits from the groups.  Find ways to give, and you will most certainly receive.

In sum, networking is a long term process that involves building relationships over time.  You have to show up, and show up consistently.  The “in person” aspect should be augmented by a judicious use of social media.  If you find ways to get involved and do what you say you are going to do, that is clearly one of the best ways to build a stellar reputation and derive maximum benefit from networking groups and professional associations.  Don’t sit on the sidelines and let others do the heavy lifting.  If you follow these words of advice, you will not only get huge benefits from networking, but also have a great time doing so.