Body Language Savvy For Sales
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You may have "sales" in your job title. But if you are a
leader announcing an organizational change, an entrepreneur pitching to
a venture capitalist, or an employee on a job interview -- you too are
in sales. And in any situation where you are selling a product, a
service, or an idea, engagement and disengagement are the most
important signals to monitor in your audience's body language.
Engagement behaviors indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement while
disengagement behaviors signal boredom, anger, or defensiveness.
Let's say you have just presented two written options to a
potential client and you notice that your prospect’s gaze lingers
longer on one than on the other. If, in addition, you see his eyes open
wider and his pupils dilate, you know for certain that he has a much
greater interest in this particular option.
In general, people tend to look longer and with more
frequency at people or objects they like. A person may be trying to
look uninterested, but his eyes will keep returning to the object that
The same is true with eye contact. Most of us are comfortable
with eye contact lasting about three seconds, and prolonged mutual gaze
without breaking can make us nervous. But when we like or agree with
someone we automatically increase the amount of time we look into his
or her eyes.
Disengagement triggers the opposite gaze reactions. The
amount of eye contact decreases, as we tend to look away from things
that distress us and from people we don’t like. Similarly, a client who
is bored or restless may avoid eye contact by gazing past you,
defocusing, or glancing around the room. And, instead of opening wide,
eyes that signal disengagement will narrow slightly. In fact, eye
squints can be observed as people read contracts or proposals, and when
they occur, it is almost always a sign of having seen something
troubling or problematic.
Researchers have known for years that eye pupil size is a
major clue in determining a person’s emotional responses. The pupils
are a part of our body we have practically no control over. Therefore,
pupil dilation can be a very effective way to gauge someone’s interest.
Pupils dilate for various reasons, including memory load and cognitive
difficulty, but pupils also dilate when we have positive feelings about
the person we're talking to or object we're looking at. And when
someone is less than receptive, his or her pupils will automatically
But eye cues aren't the only body language signals that let
you know how your presentation is being received. One question to ask
yourself: Is that smile genuine?
Typically, someone who is in agreement with you will smile
and nod as you speak. (Disagreement shows up in compressed or pursed
lips, clenched jaw muscles, or a head turned slightly away, so eye
contact becomes sidelong.) But smiles are often used as a polite
response and to cover up other emotions. Faked smiles involve the mouth
only. Unless someone is expressing genuine pleasure or happiness, it’s
hard to produce a real smile – the kind that crinkles the corners of
the eyes and lights up the entire face.
Gestures are also telling. In general, the more open the
position of your prospect’s arms, the more receptive he or she is.
Watch for expansive, welcoming gestures that seem to flow naturally
from a person’s behavior. When someone reaches toward you or uses a lot
of open-hand gestures, it is usually a positive signal of interest and
By contrast, people who are defensive or angry may
protectively fold their arms across their chest, clench their hands
into a fist or tightly grip their arm or wrist. Boredom is often
indicated by doodling in a way that seems to absorb the doodler’s
complete attention, drumming fingers on the table, or holding using a
hand to support the head.
The shoulders and torso also play an important role in
potential buyers’ reactions. The more people like and agree with you,
the more they will lean toward you and the more closely they will stand
before or beside you. On the other hand, when you say or do things your
customers disagree with or are uncertain about, the more they will tend
to lean back and create more space between the two of you.
When you see people turn their shoulders and torso away from
you, you’ve probably lost their interest. In fact, orienting away from
someone in this manner almost always conveys detachment or
disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. When people are engaged,
they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso.
However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away –
giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if someone is feeling defensive,
you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase,
People who are in agreement tend to mirror each other's
behavior. One will lead and the other will follow. If you notice your
client has assumed the same basic body orientation as yours, move
slightly and see if she follows suit. If she does, you know you’ve made
a positive connection.
One of the most interesting set of body language signals to
monitor come from below the hips. When people try to control their body
language, they focus primarily on facial expressions and hand/arm
gestures. That leaves their feet and legs “unrehearsed” and often very
revealing. For example, if someone is sitting with ankles crossed and
legs stretched forward, he or she is probably feeling positively toward
you. But when you see feet pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight
ankle lock or pointed at the exit or wrapped around the legs of a
chair, you would be wise to suspect withdrawal and disengagement. Other
signals from feet include:
• High-energy heel bouncing almost always indicates that the
party involved has “happy feet” – and is feeling pretty good about your
presentation. And if your seated client/customer rocks back on his
heels and raises his toes – he probably thinks he has the upper hand.
• In the opposite case, bouncing legs that suddenly go still
is probably a sign of heightened anticipation – the equivalent of
holding your breath.
• Crossed legs send their own set of cues. If the foot on the
leg that is crossed on top is pointing towards you, the person is most
likely engaged. If the opposite leg is crossed so the top foot is
pointing away, the person may be withdrawing.
All salespeople understand the value of good communication
skills – but the most successful realize that there are two
conversations going on, and they stay equally alert to what isn’t being
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-04-03 10:29:19 in Marketing Articles