Being likable vs. needing to be liked


I have a friend, who for the purposes of this article, we will call Tim. Which is good because that’s his name and anybody who knows Tim will hopefully see him in this article.

Tim has never been in sales per se, and he would suggest that he would be a horrible salesperson. That being said, I think he is a great salesperson. And what I really like about Tim is that he’s likable. He’s personable, funny, and intelligent. Just don’t tell him I said any of that.

What really sets him apart in my humble opinion is that Tim does not need to be liked. He does not have an overwhelming urge to do things just so people would think highly of him. He does what he does, thinks what he thinks and goes about his day today in his own way. Now, this might not seem like a great asset or characteristic for a salesperson to have. Shouldn’t we want to be liked? Couldn’t you even say we need to be liked in order for people to buy from us? Allow me to explain.

Visualize works with the Objective Management Group to assess sales associates, managers, and leaders. One of the biggest insights that I’ve seen as a finding from analyzing sales competencies is how the overwhelming need to be liked is a huge unseen roadblock for any seller’s ability to execute in the field. The need to be liked causes us to do unnatural things, to not push back when we should push back, to acquiesce too early/too often and to think along the lines of “if someone likes me, they will buy from me”. This is something that might work in the short term; however, I prefer to echo what one of my colleagues would say, “I’d rather be respected by my customers than liked.”

Having and displaying likable characteristics is a great destination. It could signal itself as politeness, highly tuned listening skills, the attempt to connect with your buyer, and the desire to find the best possible solution for all parties involved. It may even manifest itself as walking away from a deal that is obviously not a good fit.

Needing to be liked however, is not a good characteristic. It can lead to overpromising, reluctance towards honestly, and a general sense of neediness. These are all things that will eventually catch up to you. Perhaps they are already, and we just don’t see it.

So, it’s great to be likable but to need to be liked… not so much. Keep on trucking Tim.

Certified in 2012, David is a ValueSelling Facilitator, Coach, and Practitioner with 15 years of ValueSelling experience. He leverages his leadership experience in helping sales professionals become more effective, efficient, and relevant. By exposing the principles and concepts of ValueSelling in a practical and pragmatic manner, he has become a trusted advisor to sales associates and sales leaders alike.