Many people in business--including and especially entrepreneurs--seem to think that you can talk your way into being both well-liked and more successful. Nothing could be further from the truth.

On Shark Tank, for example, it's all about the elevator pitch. In content marketing, it's all about providing great information. In social selling, it's all about posting and tweeting your opinions. In personal branding, it's all about showing your enthusiasm. In selling, it's all about pushing out the right message.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

On and on, ad nauseam and per saecula saeculorum.

Why do people--intelligent people--continue do this? Answer: because it makes them feel good to talk about themselves, according to groundbreaking research from Harvard University.

Researchers who scanned the brains of people having conversations discovered that the pleasure center of the brain lights up like crazy whenever people talk about themselves.

However, scientific research has also shown that even though it feels good (to you) to talk about yourself, other people will like you better if you give them an opportunity to talk about themselves.

According to an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

People who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners. When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.

In other words, if you want people to like you, ask a question about them, listen carefully, and ask a follow-up question--about them. The degree to which you make the conversation about the other person is the exact degree to how likable he or she will think you are.

What's true in personal interaction is true in business as well.

Just like a boring companion who goes on and on about himself, all too many marketers and salespeople try to woo a customer by talking about themselves and their companies, rather than by asking questions, listening to the answers, and then asking thoughtful follow-ups.

Don't talk about yourself, your company, or its product until after you've heard the customer out. And then keep it brief and to the point. So here's the rule:

  1. Ask.
  2. Listen.
  3. Ask.
  4. Talk briefly.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

Follow that pattern and people will like you more, and they will buy more from you too, if it's a buyer-seller relationship.

A word of warning, though. Rhetorical questions (like "Do you want the highest quality at the best price?") or trick questions (like "What if I told you that you could reduce costs by 50 percent?") only annoy people.

Only honest questions and follow-ups will make you better liked and more successful.