The It Factor: 5 Ways to Be More Likable (Reader’s Choice)

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey



If you’re not one of those people who naturally oozes charisma, communications expert Mark Wiskup has good news: Being likeable is learnable. In his book, The It Factor: Be the One People Like, Listen to, and Remember (AMACOM, 2007) Wiskup doles out advice for perfecting your elevator pitch, mastering small talk, giving good compliments, and steering clear of annoying patronizing patter. The advice may not be groundbreaking, but this quick read’s practical scripts and sample scenarios are great refreshers before any client meeting, party, or networking event. Buy the Book


In real estate, being a “people person” is core to your job. You must forge relationships quickly and earn the trust of those you meet. Say the wrong thing, and you can kiss that first impression goodbye. Wiskup offers these ideas for boosting your likeability factor in almost any situation:

1. Be specific with compliments. Vague, lackluster praise (“I’m really happy to meet with you today”) comes across as insincere, insensitive, and can even leave the other person feeling resentful. Make your compliments stick by being descriptive and showing that you did your homework. Instead of: “Great job on the marketing report. Keep up the good work,” try “Good job on the marketing report. The third-quarter demographic stuff really helped me focus on where the money is for us. I was really impressed with your analysis of the competition.”

2. Don’t talk about the weather. Start small talk with questions about work, hobbies, and (only if they raise it first) spouse and family. These topics can set a great foundation. Try asking several questions about the same topic in succession. Make the first question broad (Where are you from?), the second one more focused (What made you move here?), then narrow the third question (Do you miss Minnesota?). Finally, offer your own information related to their response and ask a follow-up question (“I went to Brainerd for a conference once, but it was summer so I didn’t get a taste of the Minnesota winter. Have you been there before?”). If they ask you a question to keep the conversation going, you’ve made a connection. If not, maybe it’s time to switch topics.

3. Perfect your elevator pitch. Have about five prepared pitches you can use instantly at conferences, networking events, and other situations. Without using any industry jargon, describe specifically what you do for your customers, using conversational phrases such as “My clients hire me because I…” or “I’m the go-to-guy for…” Leave out your marketing slogan or mission statement (boring!). Instead, give an example of how you helped a single customer: “Just last week I helped a client who was having a problem…,” and then give a quick, happy ending that shows how you solved the problem.

4. Don’t patronize me! Seemingly harmless phrases can be a big turnoff to the listener. For example, saying you’re “more than happy” makes it sound like you’re trying to fool the other person into thinking that you really are that happy. And using “basically,” makes it sound like you’re dumbing down the conversation for the benefit of others. Other tips: Don’t say “I’m sorry” when you’re really not, and never start sentences with “honestly” or “to tell you the truth” — after all, do you really have to say you’re being honest? You should repeat often in a conversation to emphasize main points, but never draw attention to it by saying “as I said before.” You risk insulting the listener by insinuating that he or she isn’t quick enough to catch on.

5. Paint a picture. Work word pictures into your conversations to give relevance to what you’re saying and connect with your listeners. Statements filled with overused expressions, numbers and statistics, and jargon create only “average” communication, not memorable communication, Wiskup says. For example, if a buyer asks you to explain a document that’s required in a real estate transaction, don’t just give one sentence to sum up what that document is. Tell her why it’s important, where it’s being filed, and why it’s essential that she signs it.


“Those who have ‘it’ are just like you, but they have studied, cultivated, and practiced some fundamental skills. They’re not more blessed than you are; they’re just ahead of you. ‘It’ takes work and knowledge, not lucky DNA. That means all those people who brilliantly forge instant connections (the people you may be jealous of because you think their people skills come naturally) have deliberately developed their own dynamic ‘It’ factor. Whoa, you say, how can that be? It’s not possible. Some people are just too good, too smooth, too charming, and they make it look so easy. They must be naturals! They aren’t. … Those men and women you mistakenly pegged as naturals are actually conscious of the steps necessary to become memorable in every conversation and then work those steps constantly.”


Mark Wiskup, a former television journalist, is a communication skills coach and international speaker who helps business people master the skills of communicating effectively. He is also the author of Presentation S.O.S. (Business Plus, 2005).

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Lisa Bowen- Kissinger, Bigatel & Brower

    We at our office enjoyed this article but, feel you missed a huge point.
    An essential quality to being liked is to also be a good listener.

  2. Thanks for the great article. After reading it I see that I am guilty of some of the things mentioned. Time to work on some fundamental communication skills so I can get “it” and make my customer encounters more memorable.

  3. Pat Howell

    Very good article. Makes me want to buy the book!