Every now and then, the cable news networks will bring out a body-language expert to examine how politicians’ gestures, posture and facial expressions relate to what they are saying – or what they say about an issue in question. The United States government has been studying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s body language for several years, according to USA Today.
Body language matters for salespeople as well. What you say is just as important as how you say it, and progressing in your career in sales depends on your ability to make both elements work together.
Here’s a look at five tips to think about before your next sales call:
1. Eye contact: Ever talk to someone who avoids looking you in the eyes? It’s off-putting, to say the least. That obviously doesn’t translate well to the professional world. Focusing on the other person is the best way to show you’re paying attention to them and what they have to say. Don’t overdo it, though. As this story by Customer Experience Insight says, eye contact should be about 70 to 80 percent: “Any more and you might appear threatening. Any less and you may appear uncomfortable or disinterested.”
2. Smile: It’s often said that smiling when talking on the phone can improve a conversation and show a high interest in the subject matter. The same goes for in-person sales calls. Carol Kinsey Goman writes about leadership and body language for Forbes, and says a smile can show that you are approachable. “Most importantly, smiling directly influences how other people respond to you,” she writes. “When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.”
3. Mirroring: Staying in tune with the other person’s body language can help as well. Body language expert Robert Phipps describes “mirroring” as “reflecting back the body language of your customer,” in an interview with The Marketing Donut website. “It gets your client to relax and shows you have empathy, so even if they’re objecting to some point you can show that you are trying to reach a solution.” As with eye contact, don’t go overboard, or you might appear to be mocking rather than mirroring.
4. Posture points: If you tend to slouch in a chair, get over it, no matter how tired or stressed you might be. Your shoulders should be front and center, rather than skewed left or right, to show you’re paying attention. “When people are engaged, they will face you directly, ‘pointing’ at you with their torso,” Gorman writes. “However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away — giving you ‘the cold shoulder.’” It can also help to lean in and forward. As Jennifer Burnham writes on salesforce.com, leaning toward the client “signals commitment in the conversation and shows you’re engaged and paying attention.”
5. Keep that smartphone out of sight: Many of us are addicted to checking our phones for text messages and to check in on social media sites. That may be the ultimate distraction when trying to make a sale. Keep it in your pocket or your carrying case of choice, and silence it so that it doesn’t start ringing or buzzing during the conversation. Goman suggests replacing it with a newspaper while you wait for the meeting. This can lead to having a more “high power” pose than the typical head-down-staring-at-the-phone position that is now so common.