How do you establish rapport in an instant? One obvious but sometimes overlooked tip: offer up a smile.
A smile is one of the most basic and universal indicators of openness, friendliness, relaxation, and likeability. According to Ryan C. Lowe, author of Get off Your Attitude: Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life, this means that a smile is a powerful asset for salespeople who are looking for ways to establish rapport and build relationships.
How can you tell whether or not you're maximizing your smile factor? Consider the following questions:
- Do you smile while you're talking about what your company does?
- Do you smile even when you're on a phone call and the other person can't see you?
- Do you smile during video-conference calls?
- Are you smiling in your professional headshot or profile photos on social networks?
- Do you know how many times you've smiled so far today?
For a smile to be effective, sincerity counts. If a smile is clearly forced or false, it will do more damage than good. Although fake smiles look similar to real smiles, research by psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman has shown that the difference between the two can actually be identified via specific facial muscles. A spontaneous smile (also called the "Duchenne smile," named after French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne) is generated in the unconscious brain by emotion and is accompanied by movement in the small muscles around the eyes. A forced smile, by contrast, comes from the conscious brain and lacks association with any emotion.
Many sales professionals have a naturally upbeat personality and already smile frequently throughout the day and during interactions with customers and prospects. But this simple act also happens to be one of the most effective ways to cut through adverse situations, conflicts, and disappointment. If you've just been told no or a deal has fallen through, a smile is your first defense against negativity. As Lowe points out, a smile draws people in because it projects positivity.
"A smile is a positive response to life," Lowe says. "Smiling triggers the subconscious that you are in control of your emotions. You are choosing to be positive."
Lowe encourages sales professionals to smile at adversity. "We're all dealing with difficult situations," he says. "Even if you're talking with people who don't have time or money or don't want to listen to you, smile anyway. Don't allow those negative emotions to take control of you and your life."