From Mark Ford, founder, Palm Beach Research Group: Today, I want to talk about one way to be more charming.

Charm is a crucial component of charisma. And charisma is a trait that will aid anyone, whether you’re a salesman or an engineer.

The technique I’m going to present is one I got from AS, who uses it successfully every time he wants something from me. I am not sure he does it intentionally. I am not sure he even knows he does it. But I suspect he learned it during his 20-year career as a successful salesman.

Here’s what AS does: He makes me smile.

He does it almost every time we meet. And I don’t know how. But I have observed that every time he pops his head into my office, he carries a big smile. Then he says something—anything—the purpose and usual effect of which is to get me to smile back.

This is not an easy accomplishment. As you know very well, sometimes I’m a temperamental bastard. But even in my foulest moods, AS has an astonishing record of squeezing that meltdown smile out of me.

What’s his secret? That’s what I’d like to know. But I know this: It starts with the fact that he tries. When someone cares enough about your feelings to try to make them improve, it feels good.

What AS does is not common, but it is characteristic of the charismatic salesman. First, make your customer smile. After that, everything else is easy.

This isn’t some new or unique insight. Dale Carnegie wrote about “the value of a smile” 80 years ago in How to Win Friends and Influence People. And now, researchers like Amy Cuddy, who wrote the book Presence, are finding evidence of the ways smiles positively impact human psychology.

You may be the sort of person for whom this comes easily. If so, you need only realize what a talent you have and resolve to use it more. If you are less than gifted in the sunshine department (charisma challenged, like me), you should consider adding this technique to your persuasion arsenal.

If it doesn’t come naturally, you’ll have to practice. You can start today. Here’s the challenge:

Make the next three people you meet smile. Make them smile before you do anything else. Say something—do something—to get that smile on their faces before you begin your conversation.

(Hint: You have to be really good to make someone else smile when you are frowning. So start off by smiling yourself. If you are really backward in this area—as I am—you might want to practice in the mirror before you experiment on a live subject.)

Try it out today. Three times. And see what happens.

You may notice the following:

  1. It will make you feel good.

  2. It will give you a feeling of power.

  3. Your smiling subject will be more open to your ideas and interests.

I know this because I tried it myself.

I did it with AK. And then with KY. My third subject was not an actual person but a voice on the phone. Someone whose job it was to scold me for missing some sort of credit card payment.

Instead of acting snotty, I acted happy to hear from her. I even made a joke. The response was amazing. She abandoned her nasty script and spoke nicely to me. I could actually hear her smiling. We got the “problem” (something to do with a change of address) cleared up in record time.

I hung up the phone feeling much better than I would have expected. She was happy, too. Not a bad result considering the alternatives.

So there’s your action plan for today: Three people. Three smiles. Good luck.