Communicating as a Leader

Understanding Body Language: An Effective Sales Tool

Tom Perkins asked:

There is no question that people can speak volumes without uttering a single word. Non-verbal communication, including body language, can be a powerful sales tool if one is able to understand its signals. However, when you realize that the human body can perform over 700,000 unique movements, the idea of comprehending all those signals would seem like an unrealistic endeavor. Do not despair because just having a rudimentary knowledge of some basic signals and gestures could greatly improve your ability to sell.

“I need my space” There are four types of space: public, social, personal and intimate space. Most selling usually occurs in personal space where one-on-one conversations are more likely to occur. People need to understand that personal space is significant for two reasons. First, it is defined differently for each person. Secondly, if you invade someone’s personal space without their permission, chances are they will shut down and stop listening.

One visual signal someone can give you that you have indeed invaded their personal space is the loss of eye contact. If they have maintained eye contact up to the point that you began to move toward them, and then the other person looked away, chances are you’ve just stepped into their personal space.

“I can see it in the eyes” The old saying that the eyes are the windows to our souls may or may not be true. However, for many people, being able to look into someone’s eyes helps them to determine how honest that person is being. We also tend to believe someone more who is able to maintain eye contact while having a conversation. Eyes that dart away or look downward send a message.

For example, people who maintain direct eye contact, have “smiling eyes”, or maintain a relaxed brow are telling you that they are interested and comfortable with you and what you are saying. People who are unable to maintain eye contact or who have tension in their brows may be lying, uninterested, uncomfortable, or confused.

“With Open Arms” Arms and upper body movements are easy to correlate to one’s actions. Simply put, open arms and open hands send a message of openness, honesty and pride. Avoid speaking with your hands behind your back or in your pockets. This suggests you have something to hide.

If someone is listening to your sales pitch and their shoulders are hunched, their posture is rigid, or they are tapping their fingers. This suggests that they lack interest, are anxious, bored or agitated. You may need to rethink your approach.

For some people, the ability to interpret body language comes naturally. For others, they may have to work harder to uncover the signals of body language. If you fail to consider the role body language plays in a closing a sale, both yours and the buyer’s, you may overlook an essential tool in the sales process. Try to think of your ability to interpret body languages as just one more necessary skill needed to become a successful salesperson.

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