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The law of Mr. Rogers: We work better with people we like

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a 15-part series from Jim Mathis on the 15 Unequivocal Laws of Sales, aimed at helping your team improve its sales tactics and long-term growth strategy. The series will run in BPN’s print issue and online every other month through 2023.

The Law of Mr. Rogers: We work better with and buy from people we like. We sell ourselves more than the product or service. Be the kind of person people like, and you will attract more business — and other people.

“This is the law of likability: The real you is the best you.” — Michelle Tillis Lederman

A Beautiful Day

Have you seen the movie about Mr. Rogers starring Tom Hanks titled “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?” Fred Rogers was one of those special individuals who dedicated his life to making the world a better place. His tool was children’s programming on educational television.


When the United States Congress was considering slashing the educational television budget, Mr. Rogers testified before them, and they wound up increasing it.

One thing everyone could say about Mr. Rogers was that he was the same person in his private life as what viewers saw on television. He lived out everything he said to the children watching him every weekday. Mr. Rogers was one of the most likable people on television for decades. Although some made fun of his simplistic style of communication, they couldn’t argue with his heart for others. It made him more likable.

I’ve never worked with a successful organization that had an unlikable person on both the front lines and in top management. Likable people attract other people in great numbers. Think of someone you know and respect. I’ll bet they have a positive outlook on life and are likable.

Likability flows downward faster than upward.

If you want to be successful in propane gas leadership — be it management, sales, customer service or instruction — the most important skill you can develop is likability. Top sales professionals will tell you that they must be liked by the customer to sell to them.

For a short stint years ago, I sold health insurance for a major company. I did very well, considering I was just starting out. But one day I realized this truth: People were buying from me because I came across as a person you could sit and share anything with on the first meeting. I listened more and smiled as they spoke.

This is the “Law of Mr. Rogers.” We buy from people we like. We sell ourselves first before we sell a product or service. It’s not the honors, the titles or the power that is of ultimate importance. It’s what resides inside of us.

Trust Factor Test

Do you manage others? We like to work with people we trust, respect and like. Trusted leaders can get more from their workers, teams and staff because of the relationships they have spent time developing with coworkers.

I’ll prove it. Think of the three people you trust completely in your life. It can be family members, friends or work associates. Most people generally list family and friends in greater numbers. I will predict that less than 50% of the people reading this thought of a coworker. Now, what if I asked your work associates the same question? Would your name appear on their lists? It’s different when you see yourself the way others view you on the job.

“Even in a crowded room, likable leaders make people feel like they’re having a one-on-one conversation, as if they’re the only person in the room that matters. And, for that moment, they are. Likable leaders communicate on a very personal, emotional level.” — Travis Bradbury

Likable people attract people to them before they hear their message. What can you do to expand your circle, grow your leadership, sell more and serve better?

1. Look for Ways You Are Like Others Around You

Emphasize those in day-to-day circumstances. So many people talk about differences today. Your ability to connect with other people is one of the most important tools you have for building trust in everyone you meet. John Maxwell says, “All good leaders are connectors. They relate well and make people feel confident about themselves and their leaders.” The same is true for managers, sales executives and customer service representatives.

Whenever I call a stranger and get the receptionist, I try to connect with that person. First, they are due the value they deserve as a person doing their job. I write down information on the “gate keeper” and connect with what we have in common. I know some of them better than their bosses do!

Ron Horton tells the story about Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab. Bettinger’s business school professor gave a final exam to his students with just one question: “What is the name of the woman who cleans the building?” The students protested and asked if this was a question for credit. “Absolutely,” he responded. “I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message — the most important question — is this.” As he reflected on that final exam question, Bettinger talked about how it turned out.

“It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the grade I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name. Since that most important lesson, I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since.” How well do you connect with the “Dotties” you see every day? Are you aware that they are picking up on your cues and possibly connecting with others the way you treat them? It will change your personal leadership, your sales and your organization.

2. Listen to Others More Than You Talk

John Maxwell says, “The leader who doesn’t listen soon will have followers with nothing to say.” Wow! Have you ever been around someone who dominates the conversation or is a professional know-it-all? How do people react to them? They are not very likable, I would imagine.

“Likable leaders truly believe that everyone, regardless of rank or ability, is worth their time and attention. They make everyone feel valuable because they believe that everyone is valuable.” — Travis Bradbury

A pastor friend told me that a woman on his staff came to him humbly one day and said, “Pastor, you just don’t listen sometimes.” He felt gut-punched. When he got home, he told his wife and asked her opinion of how he should react. She said, “Honey, she is right. You don’t listen that often.” He said from that moment on, he walked around with a notepad and wrote down what others were saying.

It changed his leadership and the church’s culture. Suddenly, it became a more warm and friendly place for people to come, share and listen to one another, all because one person had the courage to be honest with him.

“We are far more revealing by the questions we ask than the answers we give. Answer briefly to sense where their questions are heading.” — Kare Anderson

3. Live Out Who You Say You Are

Successful leaders know they must be transparent and live by the standards to which they hold other people — and not give lip service. A crisis, like no other time, allows us to lead by example for the benefit of our people. People are always watching to see if you are the person your credentials and marketing say you are. Arrogance is listed as one of the most unlikable characteristics you can have.

Travis Bradbury says, “Few things kill likability as quickly as arrogance. Likable leaders don’t act as though they’re better than you because they don’t think that they’re better than you. Rather than being a source of prestige, they see their leadership position as bringing them additional accountability for serving those who follow them.”

Are you authentic with everyone you meet? Mr. Rogers said, “I do think that children can spot a phony a mile away.” If your work is with adults, imagine how far away they can “see” where you are coming from. People are watching to see if you live by your values. Ask those on that list you made earlier how transparent they believe you to be. The COVID-19 pandemic can be the best educator in reshaping our leadership, sales and service of other people. It can make or break us. Use this time to go on a journey of self-discovery. Discover how to be more likable.

“Some people are inherently likable. If you’re not, work on it. It may even improve your social life.” — Antonin Scalia

I want people to miss something when I’m gone, and I’m sure you do, too. Learn from Fred Rogers and give more than is expected of you.

Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, JMT, is The Reinvention PRO, an International Platform Certified Speaker, certified speaking professional, member of the John Maxwell Team and best-selling author of “Reinvention Made Easy: Change Your Strategy, Change Your Results.” To subscribe to his free professional development newsletter, send an email to with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how Mathis and his programs can benefit your organization or group, call 407-369-7842, or visit his updated website at


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