*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
I still remember that interview over 25 years ago. I was looking for a new sales position with a small business that sold multiuser computer systems to car dealerships. When I went into that interview the only thing I had done to prepare was to bring my resume. I expected only to deal with the sales manager and found myself suddenly in an interview with the human resources manager.
Because I wasn't prepared to discuss their company, I decided to use a compliment on the picture of her horses that she had hanging on the wall as an icebreaker. As I know very little about horses, it was hard to make my comment come off as a very sincere compliment. The interview went downhill from there.
How I Could Have More Successfully Handled that Interview
How do you give a compliment to strengthen your relationship instead of blowing it? In hindsight, there is a lot that I could have asked her. In this case, since I had nothing sincere to say, I should have stuck to questions like the following:
- How could she help me be more effective as a salesperson for their company?
- What vision did she see for the company?
- What was their view of their role in the marketplace?
Out of all the lessons I learned in that particular experience, the biggest one I came away with was a reminder about giving a sincere compliment or none at all. Authentic compliments are some of the tools you have to build a strong relationship, whether with your employees or with your customers. On the other hand, insincere compliments can blow up your efforts to build a strong relationship. It's safer to avoid saying anything if it doesn't come from your heart.
Tips to Give a Well-Received Compliment
The following are a few tips about how to give a compliment to strengthen your relationship:
- Be authentic. Speak from your heart.
- Think briefly about what it is you like and why.
- Be specific. When you give a compliment, describe what and why.
A point I make to clients all the time is that they need to give sincere compliments to their employees. Walking up to someone, then giving him or her a pat on the back and saying, "Great job, Joe," doesn't excite anyone who receives such a compliment. It feels trite when you receive it. And, in my experience, people ignore it. When people tell me that, I've been known to tell them, "Gee, thanks, but what are we talking about? What do you feel was a great job?"
It means a lot to employees to be praised in a manner, like the following: "Joe, congratulations on the improvement you've made since your last review. I'm delighted with your production while keeping your quality up."
Role in Building Strong Relationship with Prospects
It is even more important in the sales situation where you're dealing with the prospect who doesn't yet have a long-term relationship with you. When you're just starting a relationship with prospects, in order for you to build trust, you must come across as honest and caring as possible. An insincere compliment, because it comes across as phony, greatly undermines the relationship you are striving to build.
Whether you want to strengthen your relationship with your employees or strengthen your relationship with prospects and customers, you need to know how to give an authentic compliment. First, speak from your heart. I often have to pause so as to figure out what it is that I like and why so that I can give a specific compliment. I make sure my comment shows I have thought about it. And I strive to avoid using empty remarks. That's how you give a compliment to strengthen your relationship.
More from this contributor: