I received a lesson in business development and lifestyle improvement once in New Hampshire, where I was consulting with a large flooring company. I was about to have breakfast with Jim, a VP and legendary flooring salesman for over 30 years.
Walking to our table, Jim stopped to chat with the hostess, giving her a hug. He had stayed at this hotel so often that they had become friends. He was asking about her family in Arkansas. “I’ve never seen anyone chat with more people than you, Jim,” I said.
“Oh that’s just about making people feel good,” Jim said. “That’s what that’s all about.”
Niceness is a lifestyle for Jim. It’s also profitable. He asks about family. He smiles. He makes you feel good. People like him. So they buy from him. Jim lives the sales adage, “All things being equal, people buy from people they like. All things not being equal, people still buy from people they like.”
And so if you’re looking for a summer project, you might try to work on simply being nicer. It helps you make sales, makes your co-workers happier and more productive, and will make you happier.
The Power of Nice
Niceness really can be a business strategy. I read a book called “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, who run The Kaplan Thaler Group, a billion dollar-a-year advertising agency. They attribute their growth, in part, to being nice.
The book has inspirational anecdotes about how being nice can make you money. One favorite involves Ernest Hamwi, a vendor of thin Persian waffles at the 1904 World’s Fair. Hamwi saw that an ice cream vendor (a competitor) had run out of serving cups. Being nice, he offered to fold up a waffle to hold the ice cream. The ice cream cone was born. Hamwi got rich.
Nice Wins Business
Niceness generates clients. Once at my tennis club, I heard a man say that his partner had failed to show. Being nice, I invited him to play. He turned out to be a senior partner at a major architecture firm. He eventually hired me for training. Such stories are common.
At sales call centers you’ll see small mirrors on the callers’ desks, urging them to smile because if they sound happy, customers buy more.
Nice Improves Morale
Being nice improves lawyers’ morale. In 2006, Cravath Swain & Moore was faced with high turnover among associates. The Wall Street Journal reported that the firm adopted the revolutionary business strategy of urging partners to say “thank you” to associates. Turnover dropped.
And when it comes to making you personally happy, it turns out that “please” and “thank you” really are the magic words. My friend Paul is a great salesman and smiles a lot. “It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when you’re smiling,” he told me. And, when I left the practice of law, one of my coaches urged me to smile more. “You look too much like a lawyer,” she said. I practiced smiling for a month and felt great.
Years ago, my grandfather had a jewelry store in Hartford, Connecticut called Savitt Jewelers. He carried Tootsie Pops in his pocket, which he handed out to customers whether they bought merchandise, or not. It was just nice. It made people happy. He sold alot of diamonds that way.
So with the summer upon us, try giving out some Tootsie Pops. You’ll make friends. You might get a client. And you’ll certainly be richer for it. Because as my mom often tells me, “You know Joey, it’s nice to be nice.”
Joey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”