On her blog recently 500 Startups partner Elizabeth Yin had some blunt words for entrepreneurs: "If an investor doesn't like you, he/she won't invest."
But being likable isn't just essential for founders. Fair or not, all professionals benefit from a bit of charm. "If you are applying to a job, you need to be likable, otherwise, regardless of how qualified you are, you won't get the job," she writes.
What can you do about this harsh reality if you aren't a natural charmer? Charisma can seem mysterious and complicated if you aren't gifted with an inherent ease around others, but Yin insists that small concrete changes to your behavior can make you appear instantly more trustworthy and warm. She names three.
1. Sell on facts.
No one likes bragging, but everyone respects genuine accomplishment. For this reason, skip the vague boasts when you're looking to impress, and instead go straight to your concrete achievements.
When you're pitching a VC, Yin says, that means skipping this sort of thing -- "We have a genius 24 year old programmer who can code like no other." -- and opting for something more like this instead: "We have a developer who previously won a gold medal at the international math olympiad and a silver at the international computer science olympiad."
2. Address concerns head on.
People prefer problematic authenticity to canned and smarmy pseudo-perfection. So go ahead and own your flaws, addressing criticism head on.
How does that translate In a pitching scenario? "If an issue with your business comes up... downplaying it or sweeping it under the rug will make people trust you less. The thing to do is to briefly address that the issue exists and then confidently discuss how you are fixing the problem / how you will fix the problem," explains Yin.
3. Answer directly and concisely.
"Part of this is cultural - in America, we prefer people to answer a question head-on and then elaborate rather than the opposite. We perceive the latter to be cagey and evasive," cautions Yin, but if you're trying to impress here in the States, your best bet is to get to the point quickly.
Even if you are asked a very open-ended question -- "What are you working on?" or "Tell me about your team?" for instance -- start off with a short and substantive answer. If the other party is interested in more details, you can wade into the weeds together from there.
As likability is a such an important issue is business, Yin is far from the only expert offering tips. Here's what the latest science has to say about boosting your charisma. Or check out these three easy principles to become irresistibly likable.