The Digital Way to Make Friends and Influence People

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If you haven’t read the classic “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie you may not know that it is an excellent simple guide to being friendly and nice. As it turns out, being friendly and nice is a great way to build relationships in business.

Old School but Not Outdated

There are many reasons to build relationships in business. People prefer to do business with people they have positive relationships with. It’s a concept sales employees have ingrained in their souls. It’s easier to forgive Jill when the needed supply package is late; you know she is doing the best she can. With a strong relationship in place, you have enough experience working with Jill that you have sufficient evidence you can trust her. She’s doing her best; you’ve seen her overperform when times were easier and now that there are some bumps in the road, you can be assured she is working just as hard.

It is also more enjoyable to get through the day working with individuals you actually like. We would much prefer to call and chat with our friend at Company B when we need to submit an order than sit through an extremely long and complicated automated recording at Company C. Doing business comes naturally when a good relationship is in place.

So, how do you build a good working relationship in this digital age? It turns out this is very similar to building a relationship in person or by phone. For this article, we will be reviewing Dale Carnegie’s well-known and time-tested book.

The Key Points

In the first half of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Carnegie discusses building friendships with others. Tips like “smile more” may seem irrelevant to modern digital interactions, but we discuss their modern equivalence. Other tips, such as the suggestion to use a person’s name when speaking with them, might more obviously translate into automated marketing.

Let’s look at the first nine tips of the book:

  1. Try not to criticize or complain.
  2. Show sincere appreciation.
  3. Encourage mutual wants.
  4. Be genuinely interested in others.
  5. Smile when interacting with others.
  6. Use others’ names when speaking with them.
  7. Listen well and encourage others to speak.
  8. Talk about others’ interests.
  9. Sincerely demonstrate others’ importance.

We will discuss the above tips as they apply to three categories: social media, automated email campaigns, and advertising.

Four people outside laughing in sunshine

Try Not to Criticize or Complain

Perhaps you’re reaching out to an organization with an unusable website. Do you tell them, “This trash can’t possibly be making you sufficient sales.” Of course not! Don’t reach out with problems. Reach out with solutions. “When going through your checkout, I found myself thinking of ways the process could be condensed into fewer pages and less time. Typically, shorter checkout processes have higher completion rates. Any interest chatting about this further?”

In even casual conversation, think of positive framing. “Although the 5th is booked solid for the team, we do have time available on the 8th so there is no need to rush our discussion.”

Show Sincere Appreciation

Years ago, I attended a workshop dedicated entirely to writing emails. One of the tips I enjoyed was to start with some form of “thank you.” The reasoning was that an email should not be the first interaction. Although, at the time, the presenter meant that a person should start with a phone call or follow-up from an in-person meeting, there is still a digital equivalent to be had here.

Start by researching. (I know, I recommend research all the time, but it really is for a good reason.) If you want the other individual to spend their valuable time speaking with you, it is simply polite for you to first spend some time for them. Have you visited their website? Read their product reviews? Spoken with others who know the company? This will come up again in tip number four.

For now, what do you honestly appreciate about the other individual and/or their organization? Do they give particularly good talks, post motivating and insightful words on LinkedIn, or maybe just sell products in your industry and provide that last crucial step of excellent customer service to the consumer that benefits you both? If you can’t think of just one good thing to say, do you really want to work with these people?

Encourage Mutual Wants

When approaching any new friend, it is important to discover what you have in common. We may both want to make data and analysis work faster so we can get answers, make changes, and move on. Advancing technology aids the consumer and can certainly be lucrative for the creator’s investment as well. Could their data develop your technology? Could the results teach your algorithm while driving low-cost quick insights for the data source?

Be Genuinely Interested in Others

This one is perhaps the most straightforward and one of the most disregarded. Have compassion and care for others you interact with. As stated before, you should be looking into mutual wants and understand the organization you are approaching at more than a superficial level. Good partnerships are mutually beneficial for both parties and the experience should be enjoyable for both as well.

Survey and then survey again. Learn all you can. Be a sponge. How will we solve problems we don’t know of or understand? The person closest to the problem is often the best to learn from. It also doesn’t have to be all problems. There might be novel uses of a mutually utilized software or a way of handling employee complaints that leads to substantially less turnover.

Smile When Interacting with Others

I don’t like to write emails when I’m in a bad mood. If I can’t smile when writing to a person, will they smile when they read it? It is perfectly fine to ask for help from a coworker or move away from the computer for a moment if able. Another helpful tip is to just smile anyway. It seems silly, but the simple act of smiling releases mood stabilizing chemicals in the brain, even if you don’t feel particularly happy. Still struggling? Engage in a quick activity that makes you happy. I personally love to look up corny jokes. Have you heard the joke about the rope? Eh, skip it. You might prefer to listen to your favorite song instead. Whatever it takes, find a few minutes to reset to a smile the best you can.

Use Others' Names when Speaking with Them

This one is likely the easiest and more straightforward. Using your contacts list, most email software can auto-populate the unique recipient’s name. More importantly, we might apply more detailed segmentation, personalizing communications to the individual, organization, or segment. Make your communications as personal as possible within your time constraints.

Listen Well and Encourage Others to Speak

We found genuine interest in this other organization; wouldn’t it be great to explore that interest further? Learn as much as you can about the other individual and their organization. What problems have they noticed? What successes are they experiencing? The Socratic method is a great option here; ask questions.

Talk About Others' Interests

It could be football or FORTRAN programming. It is okay to mix some casual with business once a rapport has been established. It is even better to share our interest in what they are passionate about (now that we’ve found these mutual passions). Are you a solution-based thinker? It’s okay to give out ideas (if they are looking for a solution). Who knows? You may have had the same idea and can now figure out the details together.

Sincerely Demonstrate Others' Importance

Recognize that they are an expert in what they do. Appreciate their knowledge and expertise. This might be another excellent opportunity for asking questions. You already have things in common, see what else you can learn from them. This can really take things to the next level.

Focus on others genuinely and sincerely to help build better business relationships. Identify mutual interests and areas of appreciation and expertise. Send emails to real people with the best smile you can manage. Send surveys and ask questions to further understanding. Learn and strive to build something together. Whether online or in person, the rules are the same.

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