People Buy from People They Like

“I never yet met a man I didn’t like.” Will RogersWill Rogers in famous vaudeville promotional photo.

Cowboy, entertainer, and social commentator Will Rogers traveled around the world three times. He learned a lot about people and wrote about it in more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns.

There’s a little more that goes with this quote. In its original context, Rogers was referring to Leon Trotsky, a controversial revolutionary figure then and now.

“I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I dident [sic] like. When you meet people, no matter what opinion you might have formed about them beforehand, why, after you meet them and see their angle and their personality, why, you can see a lot of good in all of them.”

For startups that seek to lay the foundation of excellent customer relationships, developing a mindset like Will Rogers is a pretty good place to start.

People buy from people they like. This is true in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales. If you want your customers to like you, you have to like them first.

This is like breathing for some entrepreneurs, but it’s not automatic for everyone.

Whether you are a person who feels a nearly instant rapport with most people, or whether you are a person who’s a bit more reserved, here are five beliefs that make it easier to appreciate, respect, and, yes, even like customers:

1. Customers buy things. Their dollars become your revenue. Their problems help shade your solutions. They are the only reason your company exists.

2. Customers know things that you don’t know. Your customers are knee-deep in the industry you want to serve. They have relationships and contacts. They have an insider’s viewpoint of how things work.

3. Customers start out every day wanting to do the best job they can. In this respect, customers are just like you. They get up, have their coffee or tea, and head out the door or to their computer, intending to be the best they can be. Very few humans in our experience start the day intending to make a lot of mistakes or do a bad job.

4. Some customers are faster, smarter, and more competent than others. These folks may be your early adopters. They also may be more challenging. When you’re dealing with customers that aren’t quite so quick or competent, it’s your opportunity to help them succeed.

5. Customers are human beings. They have good days and bad. They have budgets and pressures that they have to meet. Sometimes their well-intended decisions get reversed, and sometimes they do make mistakes. Anticipate that these events will occur and do some scenario planning to protect your own objectives.

Will’s words reflect his great appreciation and respect for the humanity and diversity of people. His interest in other people helped him build his both brand and enduring relationships with huge and widely diverse audiences.

There’s a lesson for every startup in that.