Rules of Business

I like to think of myself as an amiable guy, but I wouldn’t claim to be charismatic. Charismatic is an adjective I would apply to someone like Jay Leno or Tony Robbins. Bill Clinton is supposed to be very charismatic. I know die-hard conservatives who changed their views about him after speaking to him for just five minutes.

Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of effect on people? Wouldn’t it feel good to know that you have the ability to make everyone you meet like you… and want to work with you?

Just a few hours ago, such a man came to my office. He had just taken over managing my bond account after my longtime account manager retired. I didn’t want to like this young upstart because I resented it when my old account manager left. I felt (irrationally) abandoned. But within five minutes, we were talking about cigars and martial arts. By the time he left a half-hour later (we were scheduled to meet for only 15 minutes), I had promised him more of my business. I had also given him a copy of my latest book and a $20 cigar!

He should have given me a cigar. But that’s the power of charisma.

Many salespeople are charismatic. You meet them. You like them. You buy from them. Even when they don’t have the best product or the best pricing.

Charismatic people seem to be born that way. They have an uncanny, natural ability to sell almost anything, including their ideas. They don’t follow the usual rules. They smile a lot. They chat a lot.

Do they have skills that the rest of us – the non-gifted lot – can learn?


Here are 12 ways you can become more charismatic and get more out of all your business relationships. Most of them are based on the principles identified by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: “The Psychology of Persuasion.”

  1. People tend to do business with people they like. So behave in a way that makes you likable. Be polite and patient. Avoid being crude, rude, gruff, or impatient.
  2. People are attracted to people who keep their word. That means when you make a promise, do exactly what you promised. Do it by the deadline you promised – or sooner.
  3. People trust people who have their best interests at heart. They will think you have their best interests at heart when you give them advice that benefits them more than it benefits you.
  4. People want to do business with people who are experts in their fields. So first, you need to actually become an expert in your field through practice, research, training, education, and study. Then you need to do things (such as writing articles and books or giving speeches) that demonstrate your expertise to potential customers and business associates.
  5. People feel comfortable giving money to people who are honest, ethical, and aboveboard. So don’t lie in your marketing materials (or elsewhere). Telling the truth is much more effective.
  6. People are attracted to people who are physically attractive or at least not physically repulsive. So eat right. Exercise. Stay fit. Be well-groomed. Dress well. And pay attention to your personal hygiene.
  7. People feel better with people who seem to be “real.” The best way to show that you’re a regular guy is to be cordial, friendly, and genuinely interested in others. Instead of talking about yourself, ask about them. Ask about their company, their job, their industry, even their family and hobbies.
  8. People respond to people who listen and pay attention to what they are saying. Remember the old cliché: You have two ears and one mouth because you should listen twice as much as you talk.
  9. People feel comfortable with people who are like them. The trick here is to identify one thing you have in common with the other person. It could be gold, kids, pets, or anything else. Then, use that to cement a bond between you.
  10. People are attracted to people who are humble. So don’t be a braggart. And never discuss how much money you make.
  11. People are impressed by people who seem busy. That’s why you should never tell a prospective customer that things are slow and you really need his business. Think about doctors. How would you feel if you walked into a doctor’s office and you were the only patient? Wouldn’t you wonder how good he was? As much as you hate it when you have to sit there and wait, don’t you feel more assured when a doctor’s waiting room is packed? Of course, you do.
  12. People want to be surrounded by helpful people – people who make their lives easier and save them time. They also prefer to deal with people who are flexible and accommodating, not rigid and difficult.

Which of these people-pleasing skills do you have already? Congratulate yourself for acquiring them, and practice them more.

Which ones do you still need to develop? You can’t do it overnight, but you can – and should – work on them over time.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]
  • Great post Mark. Thank you for this.
    I am printing this out, making it available as a daily read for myself and staff.
    When all is said and done – live by the Golden Rule.
    Have a prosperous day. 🙂

  • Katherine Marcum

    I thought these were great steps. I especially like the one about being busy. And I know that is the truth. If you make them feel that you need their business, they shy away. I will put these to work in my business,. Thank you.

    • nina

      thanks for the wake -up call . My weak areas are many . But no.2 above is my most critical lack…..will have to focus on handling that. Can you suggest anything?

  • Great article Mark! Many of these truths I have seen play out in reality over my many years in business. I am printing these out too!

  • Kim

    Really enjoyed the article and it is so true. I have a thing about integrity and if a person doesn’t have it I won’t buy from them or work with them. I agree with the ability to listen, everyone on earth just wants to be heard and acknowledged so to me this is a big deal and really shows respect for everyone involved.