Body Language: How to Read Your Prospect
Like a Book

August 14, 2016 © Copyright Glomacs

Are you aware that your body language gestures reveal your deepest feelings and hidden thoughts to total strangers? The very first sale you must make with each new prospect is to “sell yourself”.  If your prospect doesn’t like or trust you, he or she will never even remotely consider buying your product or service. Understanding body language gestures will help you build trust and rapport quickly with your prospects and customers… face-to-face or over the phone.

Body language is a mixture of movement, posture, and tone of voice. Top sales reps and the most successful managers recognize the importance of nonverbal “buy signals” in the selling process and have learned to “listen with their eyes”.  They understand the power of body language and know how to use their gestures and voice tone to establish trust and build rapport quickly. Body language research shows that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if your prospect’s words are not congruent with his or her body language gestures, you would be wise to rely on the body language as a more accurate reflection of true feelings.

The good news about body language is that you were born knowing the information. This explains why people from different cultures can communicate effectively without having to speak a single word. In the animal kingdom, every cat, dog, bear, horse, etc. on the planet will use the same body language gestures to communicate with each other. For example, when an animal is angry, they will pin their ears back flat against their head.

Body LanguageEven though people understand body language instinctively, the meaning of “finger gestures” may change from one culture to another. Finger gestures, such as the V for victory sign or  the okay gesture are “learned gestures” created by the culture and the meaning often varies from country to country. For example, on January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence ship, was engaged in a routine surveillance mission off the North Korean coast when it was intercepted by North Korean patrol boats. The 83-man crew were captured and imprisoned in Pyongyang, where they were interrogated and beaten. In an attempt to gain propaganda value from the crew, the North Koreans conducted a news conference. When photographed during the press conference, some of the ship’s crew expressed their disdain for their captors by sticking out their middle finger. While this finger gesture was noticed by  the North Koreans they didn’t understand the disrespectful meaning that the gesture implied. After the photos were released worldwide and the meaning of the finger gesture was revealed, the North Koreans were politically embarrassed and severely beat the crew.

During your sales presentation, it’s critically important to get started on the right foot. Research shows that we decide in the first few moments whether we like someone or not. Yes, we also judge a book by its cover too. There’s absolutely no substitute for a positive first impression. Create a favorable first impression and build rapport quickly by using open body language. In addition to smiling and making good eye contact, you should show the palms of your hands, keep your arms unfolded, and your legs uncrossed.

You can build trust and rapport by deliberately, but subtly, “matching and mirroring” your prospect’s body language in the first few minutes of the appointment. For example, if you notice that your prospect starts off the appointment by crossing his or her legs and sitting back in the chair, you should match them by crossing your legs and sitting back in your chair as well. After you believe you have developed trust and rapport, you can verify it by seeing if your prospect will begin matching your gestures. Try leading your prospect into a more open and receptive body language posture by uncrossing your legs and leaning towards the table. If you notice your prospect subconsciously begins matching your body language gestures, congratulations, this indicates that you have laid the foundation of trust and rapport. Conversely, if you notice that your prospect is mismatching your body language gestures, you know trust and rapport has not been established and you need to continue the “matching and mirroring” process.

Be mindful to evaluate the flow of “gesture clusters” rather than isolated gestures taken out of context. Listed below are some important body language gestures that you need to become familiar with. There are two basic categories of body postures; Open/Closed and Forward/Back. In an open and receptive body posture, arms are unfolded, legs uncrossed, and palms are exposed. In a closed body posture, arms are folded, legs are crossed and the entire body is usually turned away.

Body Movement Gestures

  • Leaning back and closed = Lack of interest
  • Leaning back and open = Contemplation and cautious interest
  • Leaning forward and closed = Potential aggressive behavior
  • Leaning forward and open = Interest and agreement

Head Movement Gestures

  • Head neutral = Neutral and open attitude
  • Tilted back = Superior attitude “looking down your nose”
  • Tilted down = Negative and judgmental attitude 
  • Tilted to one side = Interest

Facial Gestures

  • Eye rub = Deceit, “see no evil”
  • Looking over top of glasses = Scrutiny
  • Nose rub = Dislike of the subject
  • Hand or fingers blocking mouth = Deceit, “speak no evil” 
  • Chin stroking = Making a decision 
  • Thumb under chin with index finger pointing vertically along the cheek = Critical judgment

Are you missing your prospect’s buy signals? As a professional salesperson you must continuously monitor your prospect’s body language and adjust your presentation accordingly. By understanding your prospect’s body language gestures you will minimize perceived sales pressure and know when it’s appropriate to close the sale!

“As the tongue speaketh to the ear, so the gesture speaketh to the eye.”

– King James the First (1605)

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