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Body Language for Sales Success

Numerous studies have been undertaken in how Western society communicates. The most famous, and most misunderstood, of these statistics is Mehrabian's whopping 55%, 38% and 7% 'rule'. He compiled these results after the analysis of two of his studies in 1967.

Now, I won't go too into detail on the fine-tunings of his psychological research, but, in essence, he studied the effects of tonality and facial expressions and how they compare to the words actually spoken, and concluded that 55% of communication is down to body language, 38% to tonality and just 7% down to the words that are actually used.

Of course, this is only true in certain situations, which Mehrabian made very clear in his papers, to much dismay to all those who quote it to be true in every situation, but the point still stands - Body Language is important!

I would guess that great orators like Winston Churchill may disagree, but we can all relate to going to a party and, for some reason, really liking someone and, for another reason, really not liking someone else.

Body language, physiology, unspoken or non-verbal communication - it goes under many guises - plays a fundamentally important part of the way that we interact with every other person.  It is like a mirror that tells us what the other person thinks and feels in response to our words or actions. 

Body language involves gestures, mannerisms, and other bodily signs.

Our ability to use body language in a positive way can be a powerful tool to our overall personality development. It is the unspoken tool to a successful life.

Reading the Signs - Suggesting Interest

It is important to know if people are interested in what you are saying; particularly in a sales environment, otherwise, you are just wasting your time.  Just imagine you are in an important pitch. You are passionate about our products so you assume that your potential client feels the same way. But are they really interested? Here are some of the movements exhibited by people who are interested in what you are saying:

  • They maintain eye contact more than 60% of the time. The more wide-opened the eyes are, the more interested the person is. In fact, a person maintains eye contact more when listening than when talking.  

  • Their heads are inclined forward.

  • They are nodding their heads. Such action means that they're agreeing with you. That means they're attentive and listening.

  • Their feet are pointing towards you.

  • They smile frequently. But take note, not all smiles convey the same feeling. An oblong smile is not genuine. It is used to show courtesy, but not necessarily happiness or friendliness. The lips are withheld completely back from the upper and lower teeth, forming the oblong shape. This is usually the smile that many people exhibit when they feign to enjoy a lame joke.

Reading the Signs - Indications That They're More Open to Agree with You

There are certain hints to indicate if people are more receptive in accepting your ideas. Some of these are:

  • Their hands are flat on the table.

  • Their palms are open.

  • If they're stroking their chin, they're thinking. They may agree with you after careful evaluation.

  • Their heads are inclined forward.

  • They are nodding their heads.

  • Their legs are spaced out from each other.

  • They smile frequently.

  • They unbutton their jackets. This indicates friendliness and willingness to collaborate with you.   

  • Their hands are open. This also indicates genuineness.

Reading the Signs - Indications That They Are Thinking

People think all the time. But different individuals make different body movements based on the type and intensity of their thinking. Some of their actions are written below:

  • They're stroking their chin. This means they are assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal/idea being presented.

  • They take their glasses off, after which they may either (1) clean them, or (2) put the tip of the frame in their mouth. They are buying themselves some time to think things over. A frame in the mouth would also likely indicate that they need more details and they are willing to listen.

  • They are pinching the bridge of the nose most likely with eyes closed. People doing this are engaged in very deep thought. They may be involved in a difficult situation, where they are aware of the consequences that may occur as a result of making crucial decisions.

  • They put a palm below the chin, index finger pointed and extended along the cheek, while other fingers placed beneath the mouth. This gesture more likely indicates thoughts that are criticizing or antagonizing other people.

  • They walk with the head down and hands behind the back. People who walk this way are probably worried about their problems, and they are thinking of ways to solve them.

Reading the Signs - Indications That They Are Defensive

  • The mouth might keep a secret, but certain gestures could indicate that people are hiding something they don't want others to find out, such as:

  • They walk with their hands in their pockets.

  • They cross their arms.

  • They hide their hands any way they can.

Signals Conveying Excitement or Interest

You know that you're about to secure the deal when you start to recognise the signs of excitement or interest.

Some of the movements made by excited people include:

  • They rub their palms against each other.

  • They clap their hands.

  • Their heads are tilted forward.

  • Their cross their fingers (usually comes with the hope that something big or special will happen).

Date published: 26th Feb 2024

Lucy Burrows, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment

About the author

Lucy Burrows

Lucy is a diligent and stealthily competitive recruiter passionate about delivering clients’ expectations and helping candidates perform their best in interviews.  She thrives on ensuring that the role is suitable for every candidate and hearing about the successes of her placements.  Her content is straightforward, easy-to-read advice focused on first interview tips.

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