Pop culture has taught us that businessmen are salesmen in pretty suits. The image of a sleazy car salesman comes to mind most often, trying to convince a prospective buyer to purchase a vehicle by methods of lying and hoaxing. When we think of a CEO or manager, we often think mean, aggressive, unpleasant — at least, this is how we have pictured such businessmen from more recent decades.
Most recently, however, we have shied away from such mean spirited notions of business etiquette. In fact, we have shied away from the term businessman almost altogether because it brings with it a connotation of Wall Street. Yesterday's businessmen have evolved into today's entrepreneurs — and they're much nicer. What gives?
I really never could understand why it was believed that being a dick got you far in business. I understand the power of intimidation… but leading — or in this case, selling — by fear is never as reliable as leading/selling by honest value of service provided. The business culture today is not what it was half a century ago — or even two decades ago.
Businesses are more transparent and for this reason are forced to be more honest. The more honest the company, the more difficult it is to bluff and lie and therefore more difficult to leverage on those bases. The only logical and profitable alternative is being honest and providing products and/or services that do what they claim to do.
With this whole 'honesty' movement spilling over the business community, it has also become apparent that being nice in itself is the best way to go — and for good reasons. Let's break business down into several tiers starting with the bottommost: networking. One of the best tools of getting a business off the ground or ensuring that it turns a profit is by networking.
You meet prospective clients, partners, investors… but meeting them is not enough; it's only the first step. In order to build a business relationship with a person, you'll have to sell yourself. Not in the sense of selling your body — depending on the industry of course — but in the sense of selling yourself as a person that the individuals you are trying to add to your network would be interested in knowing.
I have mentioned many times before that the best method of networking is not by simply collecting contact information and business cards, but by instead making actual friends. If you want people to work with you then you have to give them reasons to want to work with you. Don't sell them your products — they aren't working with your products; they're working with you.
A company is often regarded as a dark and mysterious entity. As its founder, manager or employee, you are representing your company. If they don't like you, they won't bother to work with the company. If they do like you, they will work with your company and are likely to continue working with it even if they aren't entirely satisfied with the product — as long as they believe you are working on improving it to meet their needs better.
It's difficult finding people that you enjoy working with. In business what matters most are the relationships that you build with your customers/clients, partners, employees, investors, etc.… There's no better way to get people to like you and to support you than by being genuinely nice. When negotiating, being nice can either make or break the deal.
Negotiating is finding the common ground between what you are willing to give and willing to accept in return and what the person you are negotiating with is willing to give up and what they expect in return. Going into a negotiation, both parties know what it is they want to leave with and viable options as to a trade. Sometimes reaching common ground is not possible. Sometimes a little push in the right direction will make all the difference; being nice is that little push.
Being nice and presenting oneself as a good, honest person with everyone's best interest in mind is the best way to close a negotiation successfully. Nothing pisses off an intelligent person like trying to pull a fast one on them — trying to outsmart them. In the end we all want to leave the negotiation better off than when we entered it. If you can figure out exactly what it is that person wants, you don't need to be an assh*le to make the deal work. In fact, being nice will only benefit you because even if the negotiation failed you are keeping a contact on friendly terms; they may very well prove to be useful down the road.
It all comes down to reputation. Reputation is the most valuable form of currency because when it's good, it guarantees repeat customers. Every time that you do business the person you are doing business with is sure to have other options. Just as when you sell your products to consumers, the chances are that they have several options. The person or company with the best reputation is, by no surprise, getting the most business. People listen to others when they tell them how good or bad a product, a service or a person is. If they love your brand, then they will make sure to tell others how much they love it. If they hate it, they'll make sure to tell the world how awful they believe your company to be.
Human beings hold reputation as of the highest importance. Companies, brands, products, services and even people have reputations for the better or the worse. People like to recommend different products and services to their friends because making good recommendations boosts their positive reputation among their peers.
Thankfully, reputation lies in the appeal that the person or business carries. If people find you or your business to be appealing, then they will be more likely to do business with you. What is the best way to win appeal? By being nice; by not lying, by delivering the value you promised at the price you promised, and by doing it all with a friendly smile.
People have lost much of their faith in faceless corporations. People don't trust companies the way they used to — however, they are still open to trusting people. As an entrepreneur or someone working in one business or another, it is your job to get the customer to trust what it is that you have to say enough to purchase what you're selling.
You want them to trust you enough to whip out their wallet and give you money — but that's not all. You want them to then go and tell all their friends how great the service you provided was and how much of a PLEASURE IT WAS WORKING WITH YOU. You are your business. You are part of the service you provide — the human part. Make a connection with those around you and they will be happy to contribute to your cause. Be nice. It feels good and brings in the dough.
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