3 Major Ways Body Language Influences Your Relationships With Prospects

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Monika Götzmann
Monika Götzmann


Good communication skills are essential for achieving sales success, but your frontline sales team's face-to-face communication depends on much more than their language. Some research suggests non-verbal behavior is actually more significant than verbal aspects of communication.

Your sales training and sales coaching should emphasize the importance of body language so your sales team can understand and react to their clients' body language and use positive, open body language themselves -- improving sales outcomes in the process.

Building Rapport

A major part of successful deals relies upon building a rapport. According to Forbes, eye contact is especially important. To develop a rapport, your sales staff should try to maintain direct eye contact around 70% of the time.

Difficulty maintaining eye contact usually occurs when salespeople lack confidence. Work on this during role playing activities. You can also boost reps' confidence by ensuring they have deep, up-to-date knowledge of your products and services.

Other body language cues to highlight during training include physically moving away, which suggests disapproval or disagreement, and touching one's face, which suggests nervousness. Salespeople should be trained to spot these cues and react accordingly. For instance, in training you should cover how to put nervous clients at ease. When reps encounter signs of nervousness, they'll know what to do.

Developing this understanding can be of great help in the early stages of sales discussions. If a client maintains eye contact and displays positive body language, the rep knows their rapport-building efforts are working. If the client frequently breaks eye contact or moves away and starts fidgeting, more groundwork or a change of approach may be necessary.

Understanding Reactions

Understanding reactions is a vital part of any client-facing sales negotiation, which is why it must be covered in your training progam. While some reactions may be verbal, it is more likely they'll be subtle and subconscious, manifesting non-verbally.

For example, if one of your sales staff proposes a price to a customer, they need to be able to spot small signs of either agreement or disagreement. A wince may suggest the price suggested is much too high, a raise of the eyebrows may indicate surprise, and a frown could suggest outright disagreement.

Of course, people also show positive reactions through body language. Smiling and nodding are obvious positive signs of agreement, while open palms suggests comfort with what is being said. A more subtle sign may be pupil dilation, which often occurs when somebody likes what they are hearing.

During your role play sessions, ask your salespeople to spot non-verbal cues and analyze their meaning. Encourage them to react to these signs and change their approach, ask a question, or keep going.

Avoiding Negative Body Language

Your sales team should also understand their own body language and the messages they're sending prospects. They will be far less likely to use the kind of body language that can needlessly jeopardize deals.

Crossing your arms and legs is closed body language and can seem defensive, while putting your hands on your hips may look like an antagonistic display of dominance. Poor posture, especially slouching, can indicate disinterest, while scratching your head can indicate dishonesty.

"The ideal is mirroring -- reflecting back the body language of your customer," body language expert Robert Phipps said in a Marketing Donut Q&A. "It gets your client to relax and shows you have empathy ... but don't mirror everything, because the other person will pick it up as 'mickey-taking' mimicry."

Record sales negotiation role plays using a video camera or smartphone. Ask your staff to watch their own performance back and look for any of these pitfalls. In addition, encourage them to practice mirroring behaviors so they get the balance right.

One of the worst body language pitfalls is invading someone's personal space by either sitting or standing too close to them, making them feel uncomfortable in the process. It's easy to identify this tendency if your coaches are actively looking out for it.

Non-verbal communication can make or break sales negotiations. Build a comprehensive understanding of body language amongst your staff so they can read their clients' messages and strategically use positive body language themselves.

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